April 1, 2010

Uganda

Ugandan women on the up

Martin Williamson

In what must be one of the most enjoyable developments in cricket outside the top flight, a fortnight ago an exhibition match took place between the Uganda Cricket Association chairman Dr Kato Sebbaale's XI and a touring Cricket Without Boundaries side, the Nomads, in which the principal seam bowler in both innings was a woman.

"Look, McKenzie's bowling," went the cry, and my thoughts turned to memories of Neil McKenzie of Australia coming in and giving it real bite. But no, this McKenzie is a she and she had the new ball in her hand. She bowled four-off and, quite unfazed, bagged the first wicket. Another young colleague, a lively fielder, was playing on the same side, and when the Nomads came in to bat they too had a female quickie to cope with.

So far it is next door in Kenya that women's cricket has taken a sharp stride forwards with the bringing in of a ladies' team into the men's league structure, albeit with their [male] coach turning out for them. They struggle a bit, but it is doing them oodles of good.

In Uganda, that stage has not yet been reached, but it is being thought about. After several years of lording it over their East African neighbours, the Ugandan ladies caught a cold in December when they lost to the Kenyans in a women's tournament in Nairobi.

But expect this lot to bounce back. They have a busy programme including a girls' school cricket week, an East African women's contest in Kenya and a girls' Under-19 Africa regional tournament at home before they plan to seize the moment in the Women's World Cup Qualifiers in Kenya in December.

Exhausted after doing several laps of the Lugogo Oval before heading off for a net, middle-order batsman Olivia Nalwanga, 23, said: "We train really hard, almost every day. I didn't play in the Nomads game but it was thrilling to see how well McKenzie and the others got on. Despite last December's setback, we're on a roll and we'll soon be back on top in the region. Ebony [Rainsford-Brent], I read your blog on the BBC. Watch out, we're after you!"

Her sentiments sum up the determined attitude of the whole side, which is coached by veteran player Frank Nsubuga. She adds: "Look out, we've got a team worth playing for."

And so, one may ask, who'll be putting a bet on the ladies of Uganda when the next Women's World Cup comes round? I know of at least one person who has done so already.
Colin Macbeth

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Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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