Name: Ismail Munir
Age: 13 years
Class: P7 Vacist From East Kololo Primary School.
You can read that again over and over.
Many a time we have been told; ‘Age is just a number, one is as old as they think they are.”
Munir redefined that old English adage in detail with a gem of a display on the day to ensure Uganda didn’t go off the rails in their campaign to qualify for next year’s International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 World Cup in South Africa.
Only one slot is available for the continent’s finest six; Kenya, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda; and it’s a surreal battle for survival here in Windhoek.
The P.7 Vacist was the difference as Uganda defeated Sierra Leone by 75 runs to stay unbeaten after two matches in the ongoing ICC U-19 Africa World Cup Qualifier on March 18.
Batting for two hours and 45 minutes in 41.5 overs, Munir played with maturity beyond his years for an unbeaten 73 runs off 120 balls – a knock that stunned both the Ugandan dugout and the opposition’s into deafening applause at the Wanderers Cricket Club – the home of cricket in Namibia.
Uganda was reeling at 29 for 4 in 8.1 overs when Munir, who batted at No.10 for his 18 not out against Kenya, walked in for his knock. He ground hard and suffered several muscle cramps and moments of excruciating dehydration under the searing heat conditions.
First he conjured up a 72-run fifth-wicket partnership with Simon Oketcho (33 off 63 balls) and then another 65-run stand for the eighth wicket with clean-hitter Cosmas Kyewuta (33 off 40) to help Uganda set 211 runs for the loss of 9 wickets in the allotted 50 overs.
Sport is beautiful as it offers many memorable moments. But Munir’s knock was something. A controlled innings comprising of an array of strokes and just four boundaries and two sixes. The juvenile didn’t bludgeon anything, he caressed the pace bowlers, milked the spinners and run for dear life at every opportunity for a quick single even after 45 overs.
In one phrase, Munir ‘died’ for the country – in an innings many people would pay top dollar to watch it replayed in real time.
Captain Frank Akankwasa, the Man of Match against Kenya, was the top bowler of the day with 4 for 22 in 10 overs. But by the time he finished his spell, Sierra Leone were still hopeful of pulling off the stiff.
Munir’s mighty show
But the 13-year-old refused to allow them a sniff at victory with two prize scalps of Sierra Leone’s pinch hitters Chernoh Bah (17 off 8 – 1 four & 1 six) and Osman Sankoh (10 off 16) who were looking to wreak havoc into Uganda’s tired bowling arsenal. Another two wickets from Zephaniah Arinaitwe sealed victory for Uganda as Sierra Leone got bowled out for 136 in 39.3 overs.
“I cannot believe this. I am so proud of myself,” said an exhausted Munir after the tense match, with the Man of Match plaque resting on chest.
“I want to thank my coach (Jackson Ogwang) for believing in me and teaching me to play like how I did. I am also delighted I have won for my country agame in my first competitive ICC tournament to ensure the World Cup dream stays alive. If I get selected again, I will work to continue improving.”
Coach Lawrence Ssematimba, too, quickly muted the celebration-talk as of now and insisted ‘there will be no party or special meal’ for the lads going into the free day.
No celebrations as yet
“Party?” the former Cricket Cranes wicketkeeper asked back when questioned whether the boys would be allowed any fizzling drinks and sweeteners.
“Party for what. The job is not yet done. We are not bowling well. We are not winning like we would like to do. We need to work like a well-oiled machine. It is important that we do the basics right. For now we will take the two wins but there are three finals left for us.”
The only real reward for Uganda after two days of tough cricket is a ‘priceless’ day but a humdinger of a clash awaits them against unbeaten Nigeria, who are the surprise package of the tournament, after outmuscling pre-tournament favourites Namibia on Sunday and Kenya in the last round of matches.
This article by Innocent Ndawula first appeared on cricketuganda.world
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