Uganda, Namibia seal playoff berths

Both teams were forced to hold their nerve, but Uganda and Namibia have ensured that they will qualify for the playoff round of the 2001 ICC Trophy following sound victories over France and Gibraltar respectively today.

John Polack
Both teams were forced to hold their nerve, but Uganda and Namibia have ensured that they will qualify for the playoff round of the 2001 ICC Trophy following sound victories over France and Gibraltar respectively today.
It was a day, though, which had memories of the last ICC Trophy tournament - the rain-ravaged event in Kuala Lumpur - almost literally flooding back. A series of heavy showers and powerful thunderstorms hit the Toronto area at midday, forcing players off the ground for long periods and ushering in the calculation of revised victory targets under the Duckworth/Lewis method at all five of the venues in use.
When the rains did eventually clear, it was the Namibians who most effectively utilised the conditions. The Africans have been the standout team in Group 2A throughout the event to date and confirmed that status with their emphatic 179-run victory over Gibraltar at Ross Lord. Even after being forced to bat first in overcast conditions, they were dominant from the outset.
With captain Daniel Keulder (82) and Steohanus Swanepoel (64) at the helm, the score had reached 146 by the time that their first wicket had been lost, and Deon Kotze (65) and Gavin Murgatroyd (31*) only added to Gibraltar's headaches.
Forced to pursue a massive 280 runs to win from just 40 overs, Gibraltar was never really in the game after that. Opener Christian Rocca (41) prolonged his sparkling individual run of success in the tournament but barely another batsman looked comfortable as all seven of Namibia's bowlers snared wickets.
The possible late arrival of West Africa means that Namibia might not quite have finished its preliminary round campaign - it looks like it will be the only team in its group forced to play its fellow African team - but it is already guaranteed of finishing in top place.
Similarly, not even a completely unexpected result in its last remaining group match against Israel on Friday will prevent Uganda from clinching its place among the last ten. Its 86-run defeat of France took it to a maximum eight points from its four completed games, and the head-to-head rule used to seperate teams level on points in this phase of the tournament guarantees that it will not be overtaken.
On a pitch offering considerable assistance to the bowlers at Sunnybrook Park, the Ugandans did not look their normal selves with the bat, struggling to the meagre total of 166. Not only was there no pyrotechnical individual contribution from the likes of Junior Kwebiha or Kenneth Kamyuka - it was a solid Benjamin Musoke (49) innings in the middle order which brought the highest score - but they also failed to use up their full allotment of overs.
Peter Linton (4/32) was the early star for France but did not receive much in the way of support when it came his team's turn to bat.
Where they had endured rare failures with the bat, Kwebiha (3/14) and Kamyuka (1/8) hit back in tremendous style with the ball, spearheading an attack which forced the Frenchmen into scoring at an excruciatingly slow rate. Only two players even ventured into double figures as the total crawled to 75/9 at the end of a maximum 42 overs.
Elsewhere, Papua New Guinea was not so successful in its attempts to prevail in a must-win game and keep alive its slim hopes of qualifying for the next phase of the competition from Group 1B. It crashed to a thumping 104-run loss at the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club at the hands of a disciplined Hong Kong team which recorded its first win of the tournament.
The batting of Rahul Sharma (98), in particular, and excellent bowling ensured that Hong Kong was by far the better team on both sides of a long rain delay which held up play for close to three hours. Although he eventually perished when he tried the stroke once too often just two runs short of a century, Sharma's cover driving was magnificent. The use of his feet was also a delight to watch.
By contrast, only Justin Brazier (53) and Arua Uda (35) kept pace with the requisite scoring rate as the Papua New Guineans pursued the revised target of 241from 36 overs to win. A four-pronged Hong Kong attack's start was scratchy with a rash of early wides conceded but, once they had removed rival captain Navu Maha (12), the wheels fell completely off the chase. The last seven wickets crashed for a modest 27 runs, Papua New Guinea crashing out of the competition in the process.
A far more exciting finish - and easily the best of the day - came at Eglinton Flats, where Argentina ended a wonderful tournament with a sensational five wicket victory over Malaysia. Like each of the South Americans' previous three victories, it was another that arrived in the last over, this one coming just five deliveries from the end as Guillermo Kirschbaum (31*) set the seal on a great innings with a towering six over wide long on.
Batsmen Pablo Ferguson (67) and Marias Paterlini (66) again starred for the Argentinians, producing a beautifully measured century partnership for the third wicket that not only reversed the momentum that the Malaysians had established by taking two early wickets but also laid the foundations for an astonishing acceleration of the run rate. As many as 121 runs came from the final eleven overs as Malcolm van Steeden (42) and Kirschbaum built on their teammates' efforts with some explosive hitting. Van Steeden clubbed four massive sixes in his eighteen-ball stay at the crease and it was probably fitting that Kirschbaum's fateful final stroke lost a ball into the swamp that borders the ground.
Given that the Argentines have, in the one event, managed to double their entire previous tally of ICC Trophy wins, it was hardly surprising that their bus was almost literally rocking on the way back to the tournament hotel. Their performance here, in finishing second to Uganda in their group, has been a great tribute to persistence and determination.
At Ajax meanwhile, East and Central Africa registered its maiden win of the tournament with a 65-run triumph over Israel. There were four players who loomed large in the victory: Virendra Kamania (45) and Arshad Dudhia (44) playing a decisive role in lifting their team's total to a mark of 160/9 before Chad Gomm (4/17) and Arif Ebrahim (4/15) put the skids under Israel as it tumbled to a disappointing 91 all out in reply.
It was another match marred by the arrival of rain and the conditions were always in favour of the bowlers.