Uganda April 22, 2010

Jinja win Ugandan girls' schools tournament

Colin Macbeth

Colin Macbeth

Jinja Senior Secondary School seized the day and ran out winners by the slenderest of margins in this year's Ugandan girls' schools cricket week.

In front of a crowd of some 400 and dozens of marabou storks, the holders, making hard work of defending their title - last played for in 2008 - faced defeat at 43 for 9 in a bid to reach their 54 target. But panic with a string of wides from Sharon Athoula and makeshift last-over bowler Rachael Timbalian set in amongst their opponents, Kampala-based Kalolo Senior Secondary School, and the champions crept to victory by one wicket.

Kololo were themselves fortunate to be the opponents after winning a thrilling semi-final tie against far-flung Soroti Light Secondary School. The doughty north-easterners, having already disposed of former champions King's College Budo, Kampala's City High School and Ndejje Senior Secondary School, raised their game again to post 69 for 9 (20 overs). Kololo, in a rain-affected reply, lost two fewer wickets in reaching the same total.

For Soroti, Esther Ngavirrie scored a sparkling 23; for Kololo, Kevin Apio a solid 27 to bring her total for the tournament to 152.

"There was some great cricket out there," said Ronald Ssemanda, a Uganda men's squad member who was standing as umpire. His comments were echoed by organisers, coaches and spectators as they cheered their teams to the drop during the afternoon final at Lugogo oval.

Jinja, led by Hellen Naudo, one of a cricketing dynasty whose brother, Charles Waiswa, opens the bowling for Uganda, were lucky to retain their crown and Kololo lucky to meet them. Other semi-finalists were Gayaza High School, and 10 teams in all, from the breadth of Uganda, took part in the tournament.

"It was a highly successful tournament," said Diana Musiime, the Uganda women's team manager, who organised the event with an inspired team of assistants. "We can only hope for even better things next year."

Now Uganda's women have the regional Under-19's championships in September to look forward to, followed in December by key qualifiers in Nairobi for the next women's world cup, which they aim to reach.

What will be of interest to the observer was that this competitions was run, staffed, officiated, organised and played by locals - not an expat in sight - and that they played sparkling cricket in sparkling whites.

Sahil Dutta is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo