Kenya have an opportunity to open up a nice lead in the Intercontinental Cup when they play two relatively winnable matches away to the U.A.E in Dubai and a home game a against a resurgent Namibia team which though has impressed in their two matches should not have enough class to really trouble Kenya. having dispatched Canada and Bermuda
Kenya will arrive with a largely unchanged squad, in Dubai expecting to close out two relatively easy wins to further extend their lead on top of the table and put pressure on their rivals, however despite that facet national team coach Alfred Njuguna has said they will not take their opponents lightly.
Namibia, Kenya’s first opponents have several years of participation in South Africa’s domestic competition and if their demolition of Canada late last year is anything to go by then they should prove more difficult in the game which will be played in Sharjah. The last time these two team met in this competition a Kenya team just starting to find its way back in the international scene after numerous internal disputes had nearly crippled the game in Kenya and only just about got enough bonus points from a drawn semifinal to get into a final that they eventually lost to Ireland. This time around a lot of water has since gone under the bridge and although Namibia have also on the up with them sitting in second place in the group after their hard fought win over the UAE earlier in the week ,Kenya should prove too strong for them.
2008 looks to e a ig year for Kenyan sportsmen and women all over the world and although our beloved Harambee Stars will be missing out on the premier event on the African Continent, The Africa Cup of Nations, there action on the domestic season will hopefully give the die hard fans who still attend these matches reason enough that there is enough talent on the local scene to change that. The rugby and cricket teams on the other hand will have quite a bit on their own plates with both looking for success which for, while for rugby will be unprecedented, will have been long overdue for the cricket team.
First up will be Th Intercontinental cup in cricket which see the best Non-test teams face each other in a league from whence the best two teams face of in a final in a neutral venue to decide which one of them is the best at First Class cricket. The current tournament which started way back in June currently has Kenya on top of the table before there two matches in January against UAE and Namibia, Kenya will need to cash in on these winnable matches before they head of to face more adept opposition in the form Of the Dutch and the Scots. Outside of that if things work out well Kenya will also face Test nations South Africa in two One day matches, and the possibility of hosting Zimbabwe for a full blown tour including a number of First Class matches and One Day internationals. Also in th pipeline is a possible forur nation tournament involving immediate rivals in the Cricket world rankings Ireland, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
Rugby returns in a big way in February when the Rugby sevens tournament returns in early February and with Kenya having made such a strong statement in the first two legs in Dubai and George making the main up quarter finals on both occasions and winning the plate in George knocking over such traditional rugby powerhouses such as England on the way, the rugby team will be looking to build on this platform and finishing well in the top ten, maybe even the top five, who knows ? Sky is the limit.
However the biggest event on the 2008 Kenyan sports calendar is undoubtedly the Olympics in Beijing where Kenya’s athletics will be wanting to extend their revival at the recent World Athletics World Championships in Osaka with another huge medal haul. Also looking to get in amongst the medal winners will be the boxers and maybe if things go really positively there might be one or two Kenyan swimmers lining up at the finals of one or two strokes.
On the Domestic front there will be the KFF Premier league which is looking to run uninterrupted for the second successive season in a few years and will be available to view all over the continent on Supersprt following a multimillion shilling 4 year television deal. Also on the agenda will be the usual rugby sevens circuit peaking in mid year with the Safari Sevens and if nothing goes worong for the first time Kenya will be witnessing the best cricketing talent on offer playing each other in a proposed national league.
Following a 3-0 series whitewash in the ODI series the Kenyans came into this game looking to seal a relatively easy 20 points to take them to the top of the Intercontinental cup log going into the new year which would see them take on their main rivals for the trophy Ireland, Scotland and the Netherlands. Bermuda on the other hand had already played two matches and lost both by an innings and came into the match rooted to the bottom of the table without a point to their name and trying to salvage some pride from a tour that had seen them hit new lows when they lost to Uganda in one of their warm up matches.
Despite the late withdrawal of Alex Obanda due to an ankle injury Kenya were still the favourites to warp up the match and when, having been put in to bat, Bermuda’s top order began its now almost customary collapse staggering to 5/2 but 2 dropped catches meant they could have been in even worse trouble when the skies opened and it began to rain with the score reading 24/2. However unlike last year’s encounter when rain ultimately saved Bermuda on this occasion play was resumed and with it Bermuda’s efforts at rebuilding their innings. Having been dropped on 0 Bermuda’s David Hemp using his more than 10 years of experience in the English County Championships to anchor the Bermuda innings working with a succesion of partners and some below par catching by the Kenyans to see Bermuda to 232/6 with himself being just 5 runs short of a century when play was called off for the day due to bad light.
Day 2 saw Bermuda bowled out for 281 with Varaiya polishing off the tail to collect his first 5 for of the tournament and though Hemp was unfortunate not to get his century (being removed by Peter Ongondo on 97) he had been more than instrumental in seeing Bermuda to a useful 1st innings total. Kenya’s reply began and almost as soon as they got going Bermuda turned to their most dangerous bowler Dwayne Leverock who responded by claiming the wickets of Maurice Ouma, David Obuya(who had played well for his 53), and Tony Suji to leave Kenya in a somewhat precarious position and when captain Steve Tikolo lost his off stump to a beauty of a delivery from Kevin Hurdle a few overs later Kenya were starting to quibble but 50’s from Collins Obuya and Thomas Odoyo ensured saw Kenya safely to thend of day’s play at 242/5 and some big hitting form the tail early on day three just about saw Kenya past Bermuda’s first innings total to 302 all out.
If Bermuda had been lucky in their first innings then their second innings was anything but and although Hemp continued where he had left off in the first innings scoring a solid unbeaten 68 there was virtually no support with the next highest scoer being Hurdle’s dogged 30 in a desparate 9th wickets stand worth 55. After Peter Ongondo ha removed both openers cheaply, the spinners Jimmy Kamande and Hiren Varaiya, then accounted for the rest of the wickets each bowling marathon 20+ over spell s to get 3 and 5 wickets respectively and leave Kenya needing 158 to seal the win with just over a day and 16 overs left in the match. Kenya’s openers set about the job at a frenetic pace and by the end of the day had already knocked off half the required runs with Ouma on 49 and Obuya on 29. The following day’s play was pretty much a formality as the balance of runs was won with only the loss of two wickets to hand Kenya an easy win and leadership of the Intercontinental cup group with Bermuda’s match against the UAE the only match left on this years itinerary.
Match Scorecard (cricinfo)
Considering the see-saw nature of the action on Day one with both teams having the bit between their teeth at some point it would have been a major surprise to any one that missed day two with Odoyo’s marvellously executed century as well as two top notch innings from David Obuya and Alex Obanda that Canada found themselves starting their second innings a whole 130 runs behind with two days left of play left to somehow salvage a positive result. Still Kenya needed to actually get ten wickets and then chase down whatever balance might be left over to seal the victory and if they took there eyes off the ball then this strong position could well be squandered.
As it panned out that wasn’t to be the case because by the end of the first over Canada were already 2 down with only 5 runs on the board as both their openers were removed by PJ Ongondo and with Alfred Luseno bowling with plenty of venom from the opposite end it seemed Canada could very well be embarrassingly rolled over, however some level headed batting from Bastiampillai and Quaser Ali, and then later onbegan the rebuilding process and help Canada clear the arrears with only 3 wickets lost and by the time Bastiampillai fell to the bowling of Tikolo on 63 and Canada on 165/4, Canada were looking in a strong enough position to go and set Kenya a daunting second innings target to chase but the players who had been reponsible for most of the runs in Canada’s first innings could not not repeat the trick as in the very next over Ashif Mulla nicked an Odhiambo outswinger to the wicket-keeper, Ouma before Kandappah misqued a Tikolo delivery six overs later to be dismissed for 87 and leave canada at 196/6 and eventually the return of Odoyo to the attack delivered the prize wicket of Sunil Dhaniram to leave Canada at 215/7
With their best batsmen now back in the pavillion Canada totteredto 229 all out with Tikolo being the pick of the bowlers getting figures of 4 for 34 with 5 maidens of his 16 overs. With just over 20 overs remaining in the day’s play and only 100 short of victory Morris Ouma and David Obuya set about polishing off the match with Ouma blasting fours off the first two deliveries he faced (a stark contrast to his golden duck in the first innings) bringing up his fifty in 49 deliveries and although Canada were able to get David Obuya’s wicket toleave Kenya at 80/1 by then ther seult was already a formality and the winning runs were duly knocked off 3 overs later when Ouma smashed Qaiser Ali down the ground for six to seal a comprehensive victory and give Kenya the maximum 20 points available for the Intercontinental cup. Another similarly comprehensive victory against Bermuda in November should put Kenya on top of the table as long as canada do not get more than 14 points in their game away to Namibia.
Match Scorecard (Cricinfo)
Resuming on 8/1 after a decidedly shaky start to their reply with David Obuya and Hiren Varaiya at the crease Kenya and the media men were already calling day 1 a disasterand although Kenya were indeed in a bit of a pickle at the start of play on day two that day one could hardly be described a disaster for Kenya considering that they had got Canada out for a relativly small 1st innings total and they still had every chance of putting up a decent lead as long as their batsmen did the right thing.
Moving into play on day 2 Canada were quick to remove night watchman Hiren Varaiya with left arm seamer Umar Bhatti again doing the damage to have Kenya at 8/2 but even they may ahev ended up regretting this as on to the crease a fiery 19 year old Alex Obanda who put on a veritable master-class in how to play the drive shot in his whirlwind 70 ball 83 that helped add 122 runs for the third wicket completely dispelling any fears that the poor batting displays that had plagued Kenya since the World Cup would return to haunt them. All the while David Obuya, who had recovered from taking a direct hit the day before while fielding to open the bating,
continued to accumulate runs and reached his own fifty from 106 deliveries. As had beenthe case with the Canadian innings there was little joy for the Canadian seam bowlers and it took the intervention of Sunil Dhaniram’s left arm spin to break the Obanda-Obuya axis at the crease. Nonetheless Obanda’s innings had decisevely changed the direction of the game and after useful contributions from captain Steve Tikolo and Collins Obuya Kenya were able to nudge ahead of Canada’s 1st innings total with 4 wickets in hand with Thomas Odoyo and Jimmy Kamande at the crease
It was at this stage that Thomas Odoyo really turned on the fireworks blasting his way with the aid of Kamande , and Nehemiah Odhiambo to his first First Class century and effectively taking the session if not the game away from The Canadiadians to finish unbeaten on 103. Although they eventually bowled Kenya out for 393 at th end of play, that a number of chances in the slip cordon were put down will be of concern to the Canadian team as they look to overturn a deficit of 130 in their second innings and try make a fight of this contest.
With the unavailability of middle order prodigy Tanmay Mishra from the team for what has been reported as personal reasons and fitness concerns hanging around the Swamibapa players considering their inactivity (under somewhat dubious and probably avoidable circumstances) many fans and pundits were wondering if this was one gamble too many, or some unexplainable burst of inspiration going into the first day of the Intercontinental Cup on Friday morning at the Nairobi Gymkhana. Besides that the team that was selected for this game was largely unchanged from the T20 World cup with the exception of Fast bowler Alfred Luseno’s restoration to the team in place of Medium pacer Rajesh Bhudia
Canada on the other hand with a largely new and inexperienced squad came into the match having been in the Kenya for about a week and having just about scraped a ten run win against a plucky Kenya ‘A’ side on Wednesday. Among the more high profile absentees from the team was regular captain and Ashish Bagai due to work commitments thus the team was led out by Sunil Dhaniram but with strong performances in the Intercontinental cup including a finals appearance in the 2006 edition they were certainly not intending to simply be rolled over by their Kenyan counterparts.
So into the match and having won the toss Canada’s opening pair,Abdul Jabar Chauwdry and Mohammad Iqbal set about building a solid foundation for their innings reaching 78 without loss partners seeind off new ball bowlers Thomas Odoyo and Peter Ongondo as well as scoring qiuck runs of Nehemiah Odhiambo and returning Fast bowler Alfred Luseno before the introduction of spinners Jimmy Kamande and Hiren Varaiya sparked an almost cataclysmic collapse with the score then sliding to 122/6 soon after lunch when Ashif Mulla was runout of the bowling of Varaiya. Jimmy Kamande took his four wickets in a run of 4/0 in his first spell as well as running out Ashif Mulla while Varaiya bowling from the other end was less succesful only getting among the wickets later on in the day. At this point it seemed Canada were going to be shot out for a small 1st innings total but stand-in captain Sunil Dhaniram and Umar Bhatti came together at the crease to see off the pressure applied by Kenya’s spinners and Lift Canada to 220, before the pair were split by a delivery from Varaiya. With Dhaniram falling to Varaiya on 78 (the highest score of the Canadian innings, Umar Bhatti battled on with Durand Soraine to take Canada to 26o before the seamers, Odoyo, Odhiambo and Ongondo returned to take the reaminig wickets for 3 runs and end Canada’s innings at 263 all out.
With less than an hour to play in the day it Canada struck back in the first over of Kenya’s first innings when Maurice Ouma lost his wicket to the very first delivery of Umar Bhatti to leave Kenya tottering at 0/1 in the first over. However Varaiya, sent out as night watchman, and David Obuya were able to steer Kenya through the last few overs of the day without any further damage at least not to the scorecard as Kenya reached 8/1 at stumps.
Having allready lost Maurice Ouma cheaply Kenya on the first day and with Tanmay Mishra unavailable there will be extra pressure on Kenya’s remaining top and middle order batsmen, namely Steve Tikolo, Alex Obanda,Collins Obuya, and allrounder Thomas Odoyo to perform in order to try guide Kenya to a useful 1st innning total if not a decent 1st innings lead. Canada on the other hand will be looking to try force early wickets in the morning having already broken Kenya’s opening partnership
Match Scorecard (Cricinfo)
With the two opportunities to shine against test opposition been and gone with some nightmarish results esp in the T20 World Cup in S.A. The focus for the Kenya cricket team must surely go back, for the time being, to at least proving that they are still the premier Associate nation. And one way they can do this is by putting together victories in their upcoming home Intercontinental cup matches against Canada (Oct 12-15th) and Bermuda in early November. The change of format from previous years means that everybody will play everybody in the round robin stage Ireland and The Netherlands have already set the pace with both sitting pretty at the top of the table it will be crucial for Kenya to get some momentum by closing out comprehensive victories in these two matches.
First up will be the visit of Canada, who will play Kenya in an Intercontinental cup clash before participating in a 3 match ODI series. Whearas Kenya have largely been dominant over the Canadians in the One day format of the game, the small matter of Canada’s 25 run win in Toronto last year, a win that in some ways pushed Canada into the final of that years Intercontinental cup while effectively ending Kenya’s own campaign, will surely play on the minds of our boys as they begin their campaign to win the one trophy that has strangely eluded their grasp since its inception.
The second match against Bermuda, scheduled for the beginning of November may be a less difficult encounter considering that the last time these two teams met in this competition Bermuda only escaped with a draw thanks to two days of wet weather after having their backs to the wall thanks to some incisive bowling from Kenya. A similar performance from Kenya’s bowlers and better weather should see Kenya wrap up an easy victory there. However easy as this may sound it will be important that Kenya do not allow for any complacency as any dropped points in this encounter could come back to haunt them when they embark on the more difficult tours to Netherlands, Ireland and Scotland later on next year.
Although Kenya go into these matches without a permanent head coach since the return of Roger Harper to the West Indies, the team will be managed by veterans Alfred ‘Boi’ Njuguna and Martin Suji, whose experience on the world stage will be vitally important for the confidence and stability of a relatively young national side. Whether they choose to continue with the seemingly dominant policy during Roger Harper of regularly throwing new young talent into the deep end , a policy that has uncovered potential world class gems such as Tanmay Mishra , Hiren Varaiya, and more recently Alex Obanda, or opt for bringing back older more experienced players who had been dropped such as pacemen Alfred Luseno, and Josephat Ababu will be one of the questions on many fans minds as they await the team’s next assignment with nervous anticipation.