Skipper Masaba savors Uganda's first victory at the Twenty20 World Cup, salutes the supporters

Uganda team lined up on the boundary rope and bowed to acknowledge the cricket fans who traveled from Africa to the Caribbean to support them.
Uganda's captain Brian Masaba, center, celebrates with teammates Robinson Obuya and Simon Ssesazi after taking the wicket of Papua New Guinea's Chad Soper during an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match at Guyana National Stadium in Providence, Guyana, Wednesday, June 5, 2024.
Uganda's captain Brian Masaba, center, celebrates with teammates Robinson Obuya and Simon Ssesazi after taking the wicket of Papua New Guinea's Chad Soper during an ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match at Guyana National Stadium in Providence, Guyana, Wednesday, June 5, 2024. Photo | PTI

PROVIDENCE, Guyana: Brian Masaba’s Uganda lineup scraped to a three-wicket victory in a low-scoring thriller against Papua New Guinea on Wednesday for their first win at a Twenty20 World Cup.

Then they lined up on the boundary rope and bowed to acknowledge the cricket fans who traveled from Africa to the Caribbean to support them.

Uganda bowled PNG out for 77 but had difficulty chasing the low target. The first three wickets fell in 2.1 overs and they'd already lost half their wickets when they slumped to 26-5 in the seventh over.

Riazat Ali Shah (33) and Juma Miyagi (13) steadied the innings with a 35-run sixth-wicket partnership and put Uganda on course for victory with 10 balls and three wickets to spare in just their second game at a cricket T20 World Cup.

“First win at the World Cup — doesn’t get more special than this," Masaba said. "I’m super proud of this group, the work they put in. To get a win for their country at a World Cup, it’s pretty special.”

Masaba's team went through African qualifying and made it to the 20-team global tournament at the expense of Zimbabwe, a long-time full member of the International Cricket Council.

“It's been three or four years of very hard work,” Masaba said. “Getting to the World Cup was special, but this is more.”

Alpesh Ramjani, Cosmas Kyewuta, Miyagi and 43-year-old offspinner Frank Nsubuga each took two wickets in a tidy team bowling effort for Uganda.

It started with Ramjani taking a wicket on the second ball of the match, trapping PNG skipper Assad Vala leg before wicket. Nsubuga applied late pressure with figures of 2-4 from four overs.

“Super proud of the bowling unit,” Masaba said. “They set up the game for us.”

T20 cricket tends to be more about the big-hitting batters than the bowlers, with fielding restrictions in play for the first six overs of each innings in the so-called power plays. But the uneven, two-pace pitches so far in the tournament and the humid conditions produced eight sub-100 totals in the first nine games.

After being dismissed for 58 in a 125-run loss to Afghanistan in its T20 World Cup debut, Uganda knew chasing 78 wouldn't be as simple as it seemed on paper.

The reply got underway with a wide before Alei Nao trapped Roger Mukasa lbw.

The second over started with a pair of wides before Norman Vanua dismissed Robinson Obuya.

Nao struck on the first ball of the third over when he had Simon Ssesazi out lbw, and Uganda wasted a referral to the TV umpire by reviewing it. It was 6-3 at that stage and the situation seemed dire.

Three balls later, Riazat got an inside edge that bounced back over his stumps, lucky to avoid a dismissal that would have had Uganda at 8-4.

When Chad Soper bowled Ramjani in the sixth over Uganda was struggling at 25-4 at the end of the powerplay. PNG had been 33-3 at the same stage.

And when Vala caught and bowled Dinesh Nakrani (0) soon after, suddenly Uganda was reeling at 26-5 and PNG appeared on course to set a record for the lowest total successfully defended at a T20 World Cup.

Riazat got another reprieve when Charles Amini dropped a regulation chance off Soper's bowling in the ninth over. The total was 35-5 and another wicket would have almost ended Uganda's chances.

But Riazat and Miyaga dug in to salvage the innings and their momentum-shifting partnership ended in a run out with Uganda needing only 17 runs from 38 balls for victory.

Riazat almost got them there, his 56-ball innings finally ending when he got a leading edge and was caught out with Uganda just three runs shy of victory.

“When you’re three down early, chasing a low score … it was a real scrap out there,” Masaba said. “Every run they scored was very important for us.”

Just as important as the support, he added.

“We have a special group of fans who travel around the world to support us. I don't think they came here expecting a win at the World Cup but this is the least we can do for them," he said. "I hope they feel as special as we do.”

And together with the fans watching the games on TV in the pre-dawn hours back in Uganda, Masaba acknowledged the lift it gave his team.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “We salute them and appreciate them.”

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