Five teams set to battle it out in the Kwibuka T20 Tournament
L-R: Irene van Zyl of Namibia, Margaret Ngocha of Kenya, Laura Mophakadi of Botswana, Samantha Agazuma of Nigeria and Sarah Uwera of Rwanda. © Women's CricZone
September 7, 2019, was “the day” for Associate cricket in Africa. Namibia played against USA in the T20 World Cup global qualifier in Scotland, and over ten thousand kilometers away from the land of cakes, Rwanda played the fifth and final game of their T20I series against Nigeria. Since then, only Kenya and Botswana managed to play an international series in December 2019; after which, almost all cricketing action in the continent came to a screeching halt.
Now - a year and many months later - the Kwibuka T20 tournament, to be played in Rwanda between June 6-12, will mark the return of associate cricket in Africa. The five-team event will see hosts Rwanda compete with Botswana, Namibia, Nigeria, and Kenya. The week long event consists of 14 matches - 10 round-robin games and four knockout matches - that will kick off with a clash between hosts Rwanda and tournament debutantes Botswana.
With the ICC T20 World Cup Africa Qualifiers scheduled to be played in Botswana from September 3 to 11, the Kwibuka T20 tournament serves as almost the perfect dress rehearsal for the participating teams - an opportunity to stake out the competition, create plans and test out some theories is a low stakes environment. The qualifier will see these five teams joined by Cameroon, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe to fight for a spot in the T20 World Cup Qualifier in 2022.
The competition received a slight jolt well before the start as three-time champions Uganda had to pull out due to COVID-19 cases in the team's bio-bubble. It was supposed to be Uganda’s first assignment under the new head coach Suraj Karavadra. Martin Ondeko, CEO of Uganda Cricket Association assured the comprehensive investigation regarding these cases.
Rwanda will take field for the first time under Head Coach Leonard Nhamburo, who was appointed full-time earlier this year. Their record in the Kwibuka T20 Tournament isn't too impressive - they won just the two games in the 2019 edition - but are confident of going the distance this year. Sarah Uwera, who led Rwanda in the last edition, will continue to captain the 18-member outfit. The squad also includes Diane Bimenyimana, who scored an unbeaten 114 against Mali in 2019.
ALSO READ: Rwanda hopeful of clinching their maiden Kwibuka T20 tournament title in 2021
Two-time champions Kenya were the late entrants in this edition of the tournament. They didn't participate in the competition in 2019 due to lack of funding and, as the highest ranked T20I team in this competition, would look to add another trophy to their kitty. They're ranked 22nd in the ICC T20I charts while Namibia, Rwanda, Botswana and Nigeria are ranked 23rd, 34th, 40th and 41st.
Kenya announced a 17-member squad, led by the 39-year-old Margaret Banja Ngoche. They last played international cricket in December 2019 when they toured Botswana for seven-match T20I series and defeated the hosts 4-1. Daisy Wairimu Njoroge, who captained the side in that series, is also part of the squad. Experienced Ngoche is the highest-run getter for Kenya and she will be a key batter for the side having scored Kenya's only T20I fifty against Sierra Leone in May 2019.
The side close to Kenya's heels in the ICC rankings, Namibia, have a strong 14-member outfit, led by Irene van Zyl. This will be their first competition after Francois van der Merwe's appointment as the Head Coach. Batting has been a worrying aspect of Namibia and that is something they've looked to address in the practice sessions ahead of the Kwibuka T20 Tournament. They would look towards Andri van der Merwe, Namibia's leading run-scorer, to rake up the runs. Sylvia Shihepo could be the key player with the ball, with 25 scalps to her name, the most for Namibia.
Of the teams who are set to play the Kwibuka T20 Tournament, Botswana have played a T20I most recently, alongside Kenya! They went down 1-4 in the seven-match series at home in December 2019 and one of the things they've changed from that series is their captain. Laura Mophakadi, the leading T20I run-scorer for Botswana, has been handed over the reins while the then skipper Goabilwe Matome misses out. Four uncapped players have been included in the squad, to cement a place in the Botswana side ahead of the Women's T20 World Cup Africa Qualifier that they're set to host in September.
The fifth team in the competition, Nigeria, will be led by Samantha Agazuma. They have the teenaged Lucky Piety, the only woman with a century at any level, in their squad. She will be the youngest to play for Nigeria, if she makes her debut. Nigeria had a pretty extensive preparation for the Kwibuka T20 Tournament, with a camp held for 40 players before pruning it down.
ALSO READ: Irene van Zyl backs Namibia batting to come good in Kwibuka T20 Tournament
With Uganda's exit, the Kwibuka T20 Tournament this season will be played in a round-robin format, with each team playing the other twice. The 'Lord's of East Africa', Gahanga International Stadium in Kigali will play host to the competition, with double-headers scheduled for each of the days.
For the first time ever, the Kwibuka T20 Tournament will be telecasted live. Women's CricZone will stream all matches on their Facebook and YouTube channels.
Will the teams revel under the extra spotlight or crumble? The next week holds the answer.
Rwanda: Sarah Uwera (c), Sifa Ingabire, Immaculee Muhawenimana, Alice Ikuzwe, Diane Ishimwe, Marie Diane Bimenyimana, Henriette Ishimwe, Gisele Ishimwe, Flora Irakoze, Josiane Nyirankundineza, Belyse Murakatete, Cathia Uwamahoro, Delphine Mukarurangwa, Margueritte Vumiliya, Antoinette Uwimbabazi, Merveille Uwase, Josiane Uwimbabazi, Olive Dusabimana
Kenya: Margaret Banja Ngoche (c), Sarah Bhakita Wetoto, Daisy Wairimu Njoroge, Sharon Akoth Juma (wk), Flavia Atieno Odhiambo, Melvin Khagoiza Idambo, Edith Wanjiru Waithaka, Brenda Mogusu, Queentor Aoko Abel, Esther Wangare Wachira, Monica Ndhambi, Ruth Ambiyo Achando, Josephine Adhiambo Abwom, Veronica Anyango Abuga, Jane Achieng Otieno, Lavendah Alivitsa Idambo, Marion Juma Okira
Namibia: Irene van Zyl (c), Yasmeen Khan, Arrasta Diergaardt, Kayleen Green, Adri van der Merwe, Reehana Khan, Didi Foerster, Wilka Mwatile, Sylvia Shihepo, Sune Wittmann, Shiwomwenyo Namusha, Victoria Hamunyla, Edelle van Zyl, Mezerly Gorases
Botswana: Laura Mophakedi (c), Florence Samanyika (vc), Shameelah Mosweu, Botho Freeman, Jacqueline Kgang, Amantle Mokgotlhe, Tebogo Motlhabaphuti, Botsogo Mpedi, Bontle Mademabe (wk), Tuelo Shadrack, Onneile Keitsemang, Precious Modimo, Collin Mokibelo, Thapelo Modise, Tebagano Ditshotlo
Nigeria: Samantha Agazuma (c), Blessing Etim, Omonye Asika, Agatha Obulor, Favour Eseigbe, Rechael Samson, Kehinde Abdulquadri, Abigail Igbobie, Salome Sunday, Miracle Imimole, Mary Desmond, Esther Sandy, Joy Efosa, Lucky Piety, Blessing Nwobodo