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MCC in Uganda: Rocky roads and tough cricket Published: 08 October 2013

Cricket at the Kyambogo Oval in Kampala
Cricket at the Kyambogo Oval in Kampala

On arrival at Entebbe Airport, on the outskirts of Kampala, the anticipation after a long overnight journey from Lord's to the heart of Africa was finally over for the 14-man MCC tour to Uganda.

Any tiredness or weariness soon evaporated as we were greeted by members of the Ugandan Cricket Association and two minibuses, one for kit and one for the team, on a hot afternoon.

The bus journey into Kampala, the capital of the landlocked East African nation, was an eye opener. Travelling along dusty red roads riddled with potholes, was synonymous with a European idea of Africa. Motorbikes were everywhere, with women riding side-saddle on the back. I was told it's the most common form of transport in the country and few bother with helmets.

Opening up

That evening the squad bonded at an Irish Bar called 'Bubbles O'Learys' on recommendation from Justine Ligyalingi, the CEO of Uganda Cricket.

The next morning the team trained down at Lugogo Cricket Oval, which is one of the three venues they'll play at during the tour. Within minutes local youths were in the nets and training with the squad. MCC bowler Rupert Kitzinger from Dorset County Cricket Club was soon helping a young bowler with his action.

That afternoon the squad relaxed with a trip to the Uganda Golf Club. Somehow the Tour Manager David Otway brokered a deal that means for the next week or so, the touring party are all honourary members of the club.

Safety first

One thing you notice is the security in Kampala. Whenever our tour bus enters or leaves the hotel there are mandatory checks and we go through airport-style scanners more often than not.

Our driver told us this is a result of the recent troubles in Kenya. However, Kampala has felt safe and the locals have greeted us with warmth and intrigue.

The MCC banner may be famous in the cricketing world, but in a country where football is the number one priority spreading the message of cricket is high on the agenda.

Photos from MCC in Uganda

On Sunday, the start of a very busy schedule of cricket began at the Kyambogo Oval.

Except for Thursday, when the squad will be training with kids from a local school in Jinja, a town on the edge of Lake Victoria, the team will play cricket every day until the end of the  two-week tour after Ugandan coach Johan Rudolph - father of South Africa batsman Jacques - asked for MCC to play an extra t20 on Saturday afternoon.

The cricket begins

The cricket began with a two-day match against a select Uganda XI at Kyambogo Oval on Sunday. The ground sits next to the local University and has a football pitch at one end and two solid white concrete blocks for sightscreens at the other. The day was warm and the cricket did not dissapoint.

MCC's Chad Barrett was on song to help bowl the home side out for just 127 in their first innings. But any initial worry that MCC may be too strong for their hosts was quickly dispelled when Uganda came out to field.

MCC were all out for 102 after a special spell from the Ugandan duo of Faruk Ochimi and Patrick Ochan. This is certainly going to be a tour that tests every single player to their limit. Uganda are proud people and strong cricketers; they want to beat MCC.

The club's Spirit of Cricket mantra; "Play Hard, Play Fair", will be tested to its limit.

Rainy season

The two-day match ended in a draw thanks to deluge of rain on the second day. Cricket may be played all year round in Uganda but this tour falls in the middle of the rainy season. We hope the short sharp bursts won't affect the rest of the fixtures.

That evening Mr Simpali - the former Chairman of Uganda Cricket - hosted the team at his residence in Kampala for an evening of African barbecue and local beers.

It was a fabulous occasion where both sets of players and officials mixed to discuss cricket and the finer points of life.

Relaxtion

With today being the only full day of rest for the touring party, a mixture of lounging around the pool at the hotel, seeing some sights in Kampala and going fishing are on the agenda.

Tomorrow is a national holiday in the country, as Ugandans celebrate Independence Day, and we hope that a large crowd will turn out for the 50-over game at Lugogo Oval between MCC and the Emerging Uganda XI.

Keep up to date with the tour by using #MCCinUganda and following @willroe2 on Twitter.
 


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