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.