The countdown to the start of the second edition of the Victoria Series reads three days, and rightly so, the excitement has already engulfed the cricket faithful.
With the best from the region set to meet the best from the Arabian world, a talent show will be a certainty on the menu when the tournament bowls off on Sunday at the Lugogo Cricket Oval.
Kenya will get the party rolling on Sunday morning against UAE, but the hosts Uganda will also be in action on the same day. The Victoria Pearls will open their chapter against Rwanda in the afternoon at the same ground, with hope of a perfect start.
Fourteen players have been tasked to outcompete the other teams, but who are these players? We take a look at the selected Ugandan team (Victoria Pearls), and where best to start than from the team leadership?
Consy Aweko ( Spinner, Captain)
Last year when the Cricket Cranes all-rounder Riazat Ali Shah was making news for inspiring Uganda to the inaugural Africa T20 Cup in South Africa, Aweko was knotting her campaign slowly but surely. The spinner not only led her side to victory in the Quadrangular Invitational tourney held in Nairobi last year, she capped the year as the player with most wickets taken (40) in Women’s T20 International.
A mother as her teammates refer her to, the 31-year-old assumed the captaincy role last year, and one of her first tournaments as the team skipper at the Nepal series held in April which Uganda won 3-2.
Aweko’s leadership skills are some of her strength and she’s a very integral figure for Uganda as she leads by example. In Women’s T20I, Aweko is also ranked second in the list of players with most career maidens. Only South Africa’s Shabnim Ismail has more with 21. Aweko to her name, has 20. She is regarded as one of the silkiest spinners in Associate cricket.
Janet Mbabazi (All-rounder, Assistant Capt.)
Mbabazi and excellence have lately been two things hard to separate. The all-rounder has developed a knack for outperforming everyone in competitions she’s involved in which obviously is an added advantage for Uganda. When Mbabazi clicks, Uganda clicks.
Last year, she was named the MVP for the Nepal series and won the same accolade in Kenya at the Quadrangular Invitational. And lest we forget, she is the reigning USPA Cricket Player of the Year 2022. The 27-year-old is a winner by all means, and by all means an important figure in team Uganda.
Kevin Awino ( Wicket keeper batter)
Another leader in the team! Awino captained Uganda for four years before being replaced by Immaculate Nakisuyi in 2021. The 26-year-old is one of the most vocal players in the team, and indeed like her captain, leads from the front.
A wicket keeper by speciality, Awino is also the team’s opening batter, and a very dependable one at that. She last year garnered a total of 461 runs, but she’s mostly dreaded especially by Kenyans while keeping the wickets.
In 2019 at the ICC Women’s Qualifiers Africa in Zimbabwe, Awino dismissed three Kenyans, but here is the catch; all three were stumpings. There are only eight women in the world who boast most stumpings in an innings than Awino. And all are joint at 4.
Immaculate Nakisuyi (All-rounder)
Nicknamed ‘Benzo’ for her batting likened to retired Ugandan cricketer Benjamin Musoke, Nakisuyi is a slogger and one that can be relied on to get the team over the line. The ‘boss lady’ as she calls herself is your guy when chasing a score with limited balls or when a team wants quick runs; she will deliver the goods. She has never suffered a duck in her career which shows you what a batting asset she is to the Victoria Pearls.
Irene Alumo (Pace bowler)
The most stubborn and funniest in the team according to her teammates, but also the fastest with ball. At 21, Alumo is Uganda’s opening bowler, and her beastly mode has been apparent since making her national team debut in 2021.
Alumo is a joint leader in the Best Economy in Women’s T20 International. That feat came in 2021 when against Cameroon, she bowled both her Overs maidens. One of the two was a wicket maiden.
Evelyn Anyipo (Pace bowler)
Anyipo completes the opening bowling pair for Uganda. Very deft with the new ball, her nitche is at the backend of the innings, but also comes in handy with the fielding. She once took three catches in an innings and those came against Kenya at the Kwibuka Memorial tournament in Rwanda last year.
Proscovia Alako (Batter)
The baby of the team yet the fiercest! She will not dilly-dally rather go for the kill, and this has made her one of the most sought after players in the team.
At the Waterfalls Elite League, the 20-year-old notched 191 runs, that was double the next best person. She hit 11 sixes, five more than Nakisuyi who came second, and had 18 fours, five more than Mbabazi, the next best . She was the only female to notch a half century at the tourney. She will be a very key player for Uganda when the Series start.
Phionah Egaru Kulume (Bowling all-rounder)
Earned her national team debut last year, and she has gone on to cement her place at the team. Very integral to the side especially in the bowling department. In April in the Namibia Series last year, Kulume dismissed 6 wickets. Uganda lost that game, but she set a record as the player with Best figures when on a losing side in Women T20I. She picked 6 wickets while conceding just 11 runs.
Gloria Obukor (Batter)
Like Kulume, Obukor made her debut last year, and one of her traits is her aggressiveness inside power play. She’s a very important player for the Victoria Pearls.
Stephanie Nampiina ( All-rounder)
‘Piina’ as nicknamed can deliver the goods with ball, but she’s recently been inclined to batting. The only leg spinner in the team, she has to her name 17 career wickets. When Uganda is fielding, look no further than at point because that is her fielding position.
Rita Musamali (all-rounder)
One of the most experienced players in the team; her maturity will be of great value to Uganda. Had disappointing bowling figures in the Waterfalls League in January, but her batting can never be in doubt.
Sarah Akiteng (Bowling all-rounder)
Got her national team call up last year and she’s not disappointed. A left-hand spinner, her combination with her captain can be unsettling to an opponent in as far as limiting the runs.
Esther Iluko (Wicket keeper batter)
The 20-year-old is the other wicket keeper and opening batter of the team, but with Awino manning both positions, she can only wait for her opportunity. She’s however, a young and startling player.
Patricia Malemekia (Pace bowler)
Malemekia is the other player who’s position in the team you’d say isn’t a guarantee. She is one of the three pacers in the team, but can only play a supporting role to the other two.
Now come the competition, the fourteen will be Uganda’s ambassadors on the field. The stage is set, and the fans are eagerly waiting. May the games begin.