It has been a good week for Kenya’s men’s’ national team. In fact it has been a very good week. In my previous post I previewed the participation of the men’s national team in the Africa 6s challenge and the ACA cup. So now it only makes sense to review their performance in said tournaments.
Kenya made it to the final of the 6s challenge, after beating Namibia, Tanzania and Uganda, only tome up short against South Africa in the final. In the round robin Africa Cup, their three wins, tied match (there are no draws in limited overs cricket), and one loss were enough to win the tournament ahead of Uganda and a Zimbabwe Invitation XI.
The successes of the tour were built on the fine form of the batting line up. Collins Obuya’s 127 against South Africa’s Invitation XI, was the cherry on the cake, as he Rakep Patel, Narendra Patel, Alex Obanda, and Morris Ouma, all managed 50+ scores at some point in the ACA cup and the 6s challenge. On the whole the batting unit showed a resolve and determination which has not always been there in the past two or three years for Kenya.
The bowlers were also, for the most part incisive. Except for the ‘death overs’ when, it seems a slight lack of execution meant opponent like South Africa and Namibia were able to force the pace, despite being down to their last two batsmen. The Ngoche brothers (Nehemiah, Shem and James were the star performers in this regard)
Nonetheless on the whole the tour was on the whole, a plus for the men’s team, and bodes well for the World Cricket league Division II matches in February next year. The competition will be stronger, as in addition to Namibia, Netherland and Canada (teams with recent World Cup exposure) will be there and they will be contesting two promotion slots to get back into Division I, and the Intercontinental Cup.
This is the preview of tomorrow’s East Africa Premier League final between Kenya Kongonis and Rwenzori. Kongonis come into the match in the exact same circumstances as last reason they dominated the group stages of both Premier League and Cup competitions only to lose both to Nile Knights and Kongonis respectively. Kongonis on the other hand, without some of ties key cup winning stars from last season, rode into the final on the strength of their youngsters and will once again be trusting this youth movement will give them the firepower to overcome their Ugandan opponents.
Momentum is everything in t20 cricket and in Alex Obanda, Kongonis have gotten it in spades. Over the course of the season he’s racked up an impressive 328 runs from 7 innings including an amazing 91 in the semifinals against Coast Pekee. He and Shem Ngoche (with a tournament strike rate of 176.9) have provided the bulk of Kongonis’ fire power with the bat. Both are products of the youth program that Kenya Kongonis have. Speaking of youth if there are any players that capture the spirit of Kongonis’ youth movement in this year’s East Africa Premier League it is the brothers Rudd (Henry and William). Their crucial interventions with bat and ball epitomizes the value of a strong youth program. William’s 56 in the playoffs and Henry’s 4/15 in the semifinals were a key part of Kongonis’ journey into the final and if they as well as one or two other components of the team show character in tomorrow’s final then, they should be able to overcome Rwenzori.
Whilst Kongonis have been running on the fountain of youth, the Rwenzori Warriors have leaned on experience for their success this season. Veterans Steve Tikolo, Roger Mukasa have been the backbone of the Warriors unbeaten run in the group stages (a run which saw them book a slot in the finals). They will be seeking revenge against Kongonis who beat them in last year’s Cup final. In this season’s group stage meeting, The Warriors were able to stave off Kongonis, who were led by a 52 from Alex Obanda and hang on for a 14 run win. They will likely need all the experience they have in the senior players to repeat the trick and end their run of lost finals tomorrow.
This past weekend saw the semi finals of the East Africa Premier League and Cup competitions. In both matches, Kanbis were trying to turn their debut season (versus Kongonis and Rwenzori and the League and Cup respectively) into a finals appearance. In both bases it was the better batting side that carried the day and, unfortunately for Kanbis, they were not the better batting side in either game. For Kongonis, in the Premier League it was Alex Obanda who proved once again set a platform for his side as the barreled their way to a season’s record total of 203/3 of their alloted 20. His able partner at the crease was team captain Shem Obado Ngoche. Normally known for his slow left arm spin bowling, he came out and showed another side of his game smashing his 47 runs in a measly 16 balls. An innings the likes of Shahid Afridi, or Yuvraj Singh would have been proud of. Faced with such a daunting target thing were always going to be tough for Kanbis. They were duly put out of the game by a combination of Collins Obuya’s leg spin (3/29) and the medium pace of Henry Rudd (4/15 off is 4 overs). They Now face Rwenzori in the final next Saturday. In the cup it was the return of Steve Tikolo to his old stomping ground of the Nairobi Gymkhana that ultimately carried Rwenzori past Kanbis and into a final against Coast Pekee. Having grabbed 4 wickets with his off spin, he and Ugandan veteran Roger Mukasa (100 off 84 balls) batted Rwenzori to victory. Though in all honesty a brittle top order didn’t help the Kanbis cause either. Reduced to 105/6, Kanbis were staring into the abyss when, Ramesh Mepani, combined with Vinod Rabadia for a 103 run partnership, that eventually saw Kanbis wind up 248 all out. Steve Tikolo intervening with quick wickets at the death tin prevent the two Kanbis batsmen from doing further damage. Over the course of this Cup season, 248 would have been too much for most teams, the highest successful run chase of the competition so far being, Kanbis chasing down 205 in the playoffs. Rwenzori’s Mukasa and Tikolo were of a different mind though. Coming togethe with the score at 31/2 they blew away the Kanbis bowling attack and by the time Tikolo was dismissed for 62 off 67 balls the damage had been done and even a late flurry of wickets could not prevent the momentum that the two batsmen had built from carrying them over the line with 28 balls to spare.
Last week was the final week end was the final weekend of group stage matches in the East Africa Cricket leagues. Unlike previously reported by this blog, this wasn’t to determine places for classical semi finals knockout stages. Cricket is way too complicated for that. Instead there will be a 4th and 5th place playoff matches to set up the one semifinal match the following weekend to determine who gets in the finals. confused? Me too.
As it was going it weekend, only Ruwenzori Warriors were the team most assured of their place in the finals round. They were hosting Kanbis Tigers at home. Kanbis being a team needing victory in both games, to be absolutely sure of a shot at finals day. As it was the T20 game was tied with both teams finishing on 137/8 for their twenty overs. Ruwenzori through to the finals; Kanbis securing and 2nd v 3rd playoff match. Where Kanbis’ batting vanished to the following day (and one day batting generally this season) is a mystery the Tigers will have to solve before next weekend. Shot out for 85, they eventually succumbed to a 6 wicket defeat.
The Nile Knights were in Mombasa to take on the vastly improved Coast Pekee franchise. Having been the whipping boys of last season, this season Coast came into the last weekend of group games 3rd in the Premier League and tied on points with Ruwenzori at the top of the Cup. Whereas over the past weeks, it was the batting of Irfan Karim that won them their successes, their double against the Knight came down to the bowling of one Jignesh Patel. Figures of 3 wickets for 8 runs (restricting the Knights to a tournament low of 53/9) in the Premier League, and an amazing 6/20 in the Cup (restricting the Knights to 64 all out) set up easy wins for Pekee.
In the all Kenyan derby of the weekend, Kenya Kongonis were hosting Rift Valley Rhinos. Both teams have struggled to win consistently this season and for this reason were bottom of both competitions. So in a sense their matches were in a way wooden spoon finals. At the end of the day the matches were squared, Kongonis winning the Premier league match by 6 wickets (Alex Obanda scoring 63 to secure the win) and the Rhino’s winning the Cup game by 13 runs.
When it rains it pours. Such was the weekend for Kenya’s franchises generally and Kanbis Tigers in particular, this weekend. Both teams facing Ugandan opposition lost both their matches, whilst the all Kenyan face off between the Tigers and Pekee, succumb to their first 0-2 weekend of their short history in the tournament. The weekend started reasonably well enough for the Tigers. An aggressive 41 of 25 from Ashwin Rabadia gave them a reasonably defendable 138 in the T20 match. At least that was until Irfan Karim, very much the find of the season, hit 50, in Coast Pekee’s chase to guide his team to a 8 wicket win. It was the 50 over East Africa Cup however, where the Tigers really lost their way however. 7 wickets from Nehemiah Odhiambo and their innings folded for a measly 64, which Coast proceeded to chase down in under 15 overs. Over in Nakuru the Rift Valley Rhinos were not having it much better. Struggling to 93/7 in their Premier League Match against Nile Knights, their valiant bowling (Hiren Varaiya posting figures of 4-2-5-1) ultimately not enough to prevent the Knights winning by 5 wickets. The cup game saw Rift’s batting struggles continue as they found themselves 129 all out. The Nile Knights losing 6 wickets chasin down that total, perhaps indicative of how much more the batsmen could have helped the Rhino cause. At the Nairobi Club, Steve Tikolo was once again on hand to show that He’s still got it. His 58 (part of the Rwenzori Warriors total of 160) earning them a 14 run victory over Kongonis, who had Alex Obanda’s 52 to thank for keeping them a chance to win the T20 game. The East Africa Cup match, was more one sided as the Warriors swept to a 66 run (Duckworth-Lewis) win. Next week is th final round of group games and it sees Coast Pekee hosting the Nile Knights needing to win to be sure of getting into the semifinals of the either competition. They sit third in the Premier league 4 on 8 points (4 shy of Kanbis), and tied at the top with the Warriors in the Cup. The Tigers face the daunting mission of taking on Rwenzori in Kampala, needing to beat the hosts to be absolutely sure of both of their semifinals spots. They are 2nd in the Premier league and 3rd in the Cup. After winning the Cup last year it looks like the jig is up for Kongonis. Too far adrift to defend the Cup. (they stand tied for 5th with the Knights). They are also 6 points off the last semifinal slot in the Premier League. Again tied with the Knights. Together with the Rhinos, whom they host, these three teams have nothing to lose.