Action has begun in the Under-19 World Cup Africa Qualifier, with five teams in Rwanda vying for the final spot in next year’s tournament, held in the Caribbean.
The picturesque Gahanga Cricket Stadium in Kigali was the stage for the tournament’s first upset, with Tanzania rolling over pre-tournament favourites Namibia, defending an even 200.
Left-arm orthodox bowler Laksh Bakrania will be a name to keep in the notebook, with the 14-year-old turning the game in a spell of 5/28 from 9.3 overs.
With Namibia seemingly in control at 85/1 from 20 overs, Bakrania effected a run out to begin the rot, before claiming the wicket of No.4 Gerhard Janse van Rensburg for a duck six balls later in his first of a handful.
Bakrania beat the defences of William Lottering at the end of his third over, and after looking in cruise control, Namibia were now in a skid at 92/4.
While the required run rate hovered at around four an over, Bakrania met little resistance. Alexander Busing-Volschenk (10) was the third of Bakrania’s victims, and after Dylan Leicher followed, out caught behind, the left-armer had figures of 4/10, a ball into his sixth over.
At 122/6, pressure mounted on the set Jan Balt, who fell at the other end in an attempt to counter. Falling lbw to Yalinde Nkanya for 53 (62) Balt was the last recognised batter to fall.
Jan Potgieter 18 (11) was Namibia’s last roll of the dice, but became Bakrania’s fifth wicket of the afternoon, all but ending conversations of a miraculous comeback. Namibia fell to 152, with Bakrania unsurprisingly adjudged Player of the Match.
Not to be outdone, hosts Rwanda pulled off an upset of their own, defeating last cycle’s champion Nigeria by four runs in a defence of a meager 125.
Winning the toss and fielding, Nigeria looked on top after dismissing Rwanda for 125, even after Emile Rukiriza (23) and Eric Kubwimana (17) fought to move the team score into three figures, after at one stage reeling at 5/44.
Nigeria, in reply, were unable to form a knockout partnership to seal the match. Looking in control at 72-3, Huzeifa Abdulsalam (17) and Issac Onyemgba (22) fell in quick succession, and an upset looked on the cards.
Limping to 121/8, Destiny Chilemanya (15*) looked to be the hero for Nigeria, though with just five runs required, Rwanda struck. Unable to get back on strike for the 40th over, Chilemanya watched on as Victor Ipoli (6) and Nzube Nwokike (0) fell in successive balls to Steven Ntwari, who finished with 3/27.
Rukiriza, who also picked up 3/20 along with his contribution with the bat, picked up Player of the Match honours.