Kenya tour to Ireland (July 3rd-July 10th)

Following a less than convincing qualification campaign for the 2011 World Cup, Kenya’s attentions now switch to the longer format of the game where they open their efforts to capture (for the first time) the Intercontinental cup from Ireland (the current 3 time defending champions) , by facing them on their own on the 3rd of July. The tour which will also involve two One day Internationals is likely to a baptism of fire for a new coaching set up with word in the press and certain blogs that an ad had been placed for a new head coach and that the shortlist is now down to two candidates. That and the small matter of selecting a new captain following steve Tikolo’s decision to step down in April of this year.

This season’s tournament see’s one major change with Zimbabwe fielding an ‘A’ team as part of their efforts to rehabilitate and get back to playing test cricket. Aside from that there is the creation of a second division Intercontinental shield. Other changes see Bermuda and Namibia bizzarrely relegated on the back of their poor World Cup Qualifiers, to be replaced by Afghanistan and the A team from Zimbabwe. So far the ICC has only released a handful of matches (amounting to about 1 round) with no indication as when the rest of the schedule (if it exists at all) will be made known to the participants.

Back to the Kenya situation. If the coaching vacancy is were being filled tomorrow, it would leave the new guy some three weeks to gel with the squad and prepare them for what would surely be the most difficult assignment that could reasonably come out of the hat (aside from probably a likely fixture away against Zimbabwe A). However it is likely that the job will stay with Andy Kirsten till just after the Ireland assignment

Last season’s meeting between the two sides saw a resurgent, full strength, Ireland thrash Kenya by an innings on a Gymkhana wicket that saw Kenya’s bowlers only manage 4 wickets in 160 overs, enabling the Irish to overhaul Kenya in the points table and get back into the final they eventually won against Namibia.

This year it is likely that as many as 6 of the Irish team will be unavailable for at least the Intercontinental cup due to County cricket commitments. However, the Irish are likely to be on a high after once again upsetting the apple cart by making the latter stages of the ongoing World T20 World Cup in England and and will be full of cricket when their opponents arrive in Dublin to face them, having not played a single international match since April.

Full tour fixtures (with facebook event links)

July 3rd-6th
Intercontinental Cup (4 day game)
Ireland vs Kenya

July 8th*
One Day International
Ireland v Kenya
Clontarf Cricket Club Ground, Dublin

July 10th*
One day international
Ireland v Kenya
Clontarf Cricket Club Ground, Dublin

Tickets and booking information is likely to be made available here, or here*

EDIT: After pestering several sources for infor this blog can now confirm that tickets will certainly be available only at the gate for at least the two ODIs, and possibly the intercontinental Cup match.

Otieno, Aga back in Kenya squad

Kennedy Otieno and Ragheb Aga were the the only two changes to the Kenya squad that will beging their season definiing tour of Europe. The 16 man squad will spend two weeks in the Sothe of England playing a series of warm up matches against various cluba and minor counties before they head off to Ireland to play in the qualifying tournament for the ICC T20 World cup in England in 2009. This will be followed by Intercontinental Cup matches against Scotland and the Netherlands as well as several one day internationals.

The return of Ragheb Aga despite his not playing in Cricket Kenya’s Sahara Elite League maks a fairly successful year for the young paceman who landed a one year conract with English County side Sussex, for whom he has taken 7 wickets at 23.14 apiece from 5 innings in the County Championship. His familiarity with local conditions will be important to the success of the tour. Kennedy Obuya on the other hand has been the leading runscorer in the Sahara Elite league scoring two centuries in leading the Southern Stars to the 2 day league title.

Full Squad.

Worrying signs…

Having won one match and lost one match Kenya return from Sharjah back at the top of the Intercontinental Cup log and unless some wheeling and dealing from Cricket Kenya does otherwise will not be playing any International level matches until they set of to Europe and the UK where they will face their biggest rivals for the tag ‘best cricketing nation without test status’ on their turf i.e. The Netherlands and Scotland. As the individual match reviews for the Namibia game are available here, and for the UAE game here, this entry will be more or less a look at the overall tour than any one match in particular.

Gerry Snyman’s innings may have been a once in a lifetime miracle that invariably cannot be discounted however one looks at the match, that Kenya got shot out for 135 having had a whole day and half to negotiate a 237 run chase on an increasingly bowler friendly pitch and that in both matches there was only 100+ partnership, (the sixth wicket stand between James Kamande and Thomas Odoyo in the first innings against UAE) will leave more some worried about the bruttleness of Kenya’s batting order. That sid thee were some marvelous individual performances with Hiren Varaiya claiming his 50th first Class wicket in only his 12th match against Namibia and then going on to claim his fourth 5 wicket haul against the UAE. Peter Ongondo also had a strong showing with the ball claiming a total of 9 wickets in both matches while Thomas Odoyo’s century and James Kamande’s Half century gainst UAE were the biggest highlights with the bat.

Though it was unfortunate that the Namibia game that was originally set for Nairobi was moved to Sharjah for security reasons one would have still have thought Kenya would have too much firepower for Namibia, and that their win over UAE who despite their previous World cup experience should not have really have come with so much of a struggle will give their more illustrious opponents the Netherlands and former tournament winners Scotland hope when they host Kenya later on in the year as it has to be noted that when Ireland, did last play UAE in the Intercontinental Cup, soon after their disappointing World Cricket League, it was all one way traffic.
On the other hand Ireland, the current defending champions have to travel to Namibia (whose extra first class experience could well get them another upset win) though and in all
likelihood the UAE will not fold so meekly this time when the two teams meet again in March.
Nonetheless it will be crucial in the months leading up to these crucial potentially tournament defining matches that Kenya do something about strengthening the resolve of the top order so they do not find themselves 5 or six wickets down with barely anything on the scorecard and fighting to stay in the match against Scotland or the Netherlands come their matches in August this year.

Chance to open a gap

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 Highlights

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.

Kenya v. Bermuda Intercontinental cup

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)

Kenya vs. Canada (Intercontinental Cup) Day 3.

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)