July 28th 2008 and The Kenya cricket team were in Exeter for the second of their two matches against the local team Exeter CC. With the first match having gone to the wire with the Kenyans just getting home by 10 runs. The second match, a T20 match would pit see the Kenyans looking for a more comprehensive victory to settle the nerves and te Exeter team looking to claim a major scalp with victory over an established international side.
Unlike other match reports that have appeared on this blog I was fortunate enough to be there in person to witness the action with my own eyes and even get some time to converse with some of the Kenya touring squad most especially Match analyst Alfed Njuguna, All three of the Obuya brothers as well and so on. In the end Kenya went on to wrap up a fairly comfortable 5 wicket win of the back of some impressive bowling from Tony Suji, Ragheb Aga and Hiren Varaiya, and an opening stand between Kennedy Obuya and Maurice Ouma which effectively ended the match as a contest.
Having arrived in Exeter, from a weekend of sampling some of the most exciting non-mainstream music at the WOMAD festival, several hours ahead of the start of the match, and having enjoyed a few hours walk about in the city itself. And with the arrival of several interested spectators.
With both teams having gone through their various warm up rituals and with the lineups and the toss decided it was time to get going. Kenya had won the toss on a track with ominously visible cracks and with Steve Tikolo resting it was allrounder Thomas Odoyo who made the decision to stick the opposition in and within a few overs he had justification for his decision, bowling out D.F Lye one of the Exeter openers for 4 leaving Exeter at 21/1. A few boundaries later and it was beginning to look as though the Exeter side were going to shake off the early setback and gone on to post a reasonable total when a few changes in the bowling attack led to a cluster of wickets. Firstly a well directed fullish delivery from Tony Suji had trapped leg before, Ragheb Aga then got in on the action taking a sharp catch off his own bowling to remove and when Hiren Varaiya chip in with a brace of his own, what looked like a steady platform for Exeter at 51/2 had slipped to 88 with only two wickets left in their innings. Nonetheless the home side were just about able to hobble to 117/9 off their twenty overs.
The bowling unit having done their bit it as down to the batsmen, led by Kennedy Otieno and Morris Ouma to finish the job. And with two sparkling drives off the first over from Ouma, the tome was set for the run chase. Within no time Kenya’s 50 was up but an ominous looking raincloud meant that Kenya’s run chase was alomost brought to a halt but the rain passed without the need for bringing out the covers and the charge continued.
With the drizzle letting up and Exeter turning to their spinners it seemed that they had found a way back into the game as Kenya began to leak wickets reguarly but with less than 20 needed for the win with 5 overs remaining, a cool headed partnership between Thomas Odoyo and Ragheb Aga was enough to clinch a 5 wicket victory with Odoyo putting away the last runs with a lofted drive into the cover region for four.
With a vital T20 World Cup qualifier ahead Kenya will hope that the aggression of their opening bolwers will be enough to put away the bowling attacks of their opponents in Ireland.