Middle of the bat from Nsubuga(copyright CricketEurope)So, now it is crunch time. The many months, even years, of practice, hard work, warm-up matches, and competitions are over and done for the Ugandan cricket team. Wednesday, April 1st, it is all on the line as the World Cup Qualifiers get under way against Namibia in Krugersdorp, South Africa.

This is the third time the Ugandans have competed in a World Cup qualifier event, and they are hoping to improve upon their previous placing. Perhaps expectations were too high after a marvellous showing in Canada in 2001, and many felt let down by the team's losses four years later in Ireland. Nonetheless, the lads had succeeded, one could say, just by making it to that event.

And here they are again, with a new coach, some old and some new faces, fit and ready to come out fighting.

With a week in Cape-Town behind them, which included two warm-up matches against good quality provincial sides, they should be fully acclimatised, as indeed they showed with a good win in the final practice match on Sunday against old rivals Denmark.

The stakes are high. Not just for the team who have been promised ample rewards for success, but also for the development of the game in Uganda.

The ICC, which oversees all cricket worldwide, has long supported associate members such as Uganda, and provided a route to greater competitions and more direct monetary support to the association. If Uganda finishes in the top four, for example, they will play in the next World Cup, have ODI status, and far greater earnings. However a finish in the top six begets ODI status as well, a top eight finish means participation in the Intercontinental Cup, a four-day first class format. Even a top ten placing derives greater funding as a High Performance Associate. Any new funds, of course, will go to improve the game across Uganda, in primary and secondary schools, in new grounds, and in the further professionalising of the National side. So, there is a lot to fight for; the honour of the side and the continued growth of the game at home.

Denmark v Uganda (CricketEurope)Sunday's match against Denmark promised to be a tough contest, with bragging rights at stake as Uganda had narrowly lost the last two times out against the tenacious Danes. Junior Kwebiha stepped back into side after missing the previous matches due to work commitments. The important arm, and bat, of Kenneth Kamyuka was rested. We all know what he is capable of.

The Danes batted without great consistency, and were bowled for a very achievable 172 in the allotted time. New man Asad Seyiga showed his speed, and Waiswa bowled with superb economy. Some concern will be the extras conceded: twenty three in all, including eleven wides, and three no-balls.

A bit of a surprise was seeing Joel Olweny coming in at number one, but as team manager Justin Ligyalingi explained, the usual opener, wicket-keeper Roger Mukasa, had " a small intestinal difficulty and he should be okay to open the next match in his usual position". Good news that, though Olweny showed some powerful form in 30 quick fire runs to set the tempo. Again, there was a bit of a let-down as positions two to four failed to get into double digits, however, Kwebiha came on for a powerful, morale boosting captain's knock of 39, rightly re-establishing himself. The match was won with balls to spare, thanks to a tail that wagged.

Against Namibia, on Wednesday, and Canada on Thursday, things won't be quite so straightforward. Both these sides are replete with talented players of great experience, many having played in previous World Cups.

Namibia, having taken part in the South African domestic competitions are particularly hardened and ready. They easily out-classed Bermuda in their warm-up match, but are not taking Uganda lightly.

"It is a very important game," explained team manager Abraham Louw, "and we are similar teams so anything could happen. We are looking forward to this match very much." The Namibians have a deep batting order and their experience at the longer game in South Africa stands them in good stead. The bowling attack is also very complete with "at least seven bowlers chosen" in each side, according to Mr. Louw. Against Bermuda they used nine. Look out for the explosive Gerry Snyman with the bat, and Dean Kotze and Sarel Burger with the ball.

Uganda will look towards their openers to continue the good form established in Argentina, and the bowling and fielding should be of its usual high quality. If the middle order can put improve, as indeed they showed in the warm-ups, then this is a very winnable match, but Uganda will have to play a tight game and not lose their concentration as Namibia can be particularly tough to beat.

Canada can boast some big names but are a team of mixed abilities. New youngster Rizwan Cheema is a formidable all-rounder and will complement the experienced John Davison. "Uganadian" Henry Osinde also features as a bowler. They've had somewhat indifferent form of late, and have just come from training in Sri-Lanka and may take longer to settle as a result. This, too, will be a match that the Ugandans will target, sensing a possibility of an upset.

Uganda go into this tournament awake to the pitfalls and difficulties that await, but with confidence and awareness, and a new resiliency which just may make all the difference this time around.