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.
As alluded to in last week’s review, this season’s East Africa Premier League and Cup’s format is a little bit more complicated than last year’s. Where in the inaugural edition, the team’s with the best records beque the group stages simply squared off in the final to determine the winner, and the teams 3rd and 4th played a 3rd place playoff. This season, the teams finishing first (Rwenzori and the Premier league, and Coast in the Cup) would go straight into the finals, where they would await the winner of a series of playoff matches. Because of this, Kanbis, who finished 2nd and 4th in the Premier League and Cup respectively, found themselves playing a double header against The Nile Knights, who themselves finished 5th and 3rd in the Premier League and cup competitions. Are we still confused? I’m not anymore, so your on your own. Anyway, humor aside, Kanbis Tigers were in the Premier League side of things, fighting Nile Knights for a semifinal slot v. the winner of Kongonis v. Coast Pekee. Carried by the aggression of Nahendra Patel (48) and some late hitting from Ramesh Mepani (28*) Kanbis’ 142/8 proved to be just enough to hold off the Knights, who ended up all out for 135. On the bowling front, Rakep Patel and Rajesh Bhudiya combined to take 6 wickets for just 40 runs proving to be the difference in a close fought game. Kanbis will now face Kenya Kongonis for the right to stop Rwenzori taking the Premier league trophy back to Uganda. Kongonis booked their place in the semifinal in a far more comprehensive fashion. Riding on the call of William Rudd’s 56, to 135/4, they were always on top of Coast’s vaunted batting attack. The Mombasa team hobbling to 89/8 in their 20 overs. On the Cup front, the Tigers v. Knights contest was an even closer affair than th Premier League game. Chasing 204, a target has actually proved beyond most teams in the cup this season, the Tigers scraped home just barely. Their last wicket partnership of Oluoch and Rabadia scoring 61 to earn a 1 wicket win. Thus proving true the wisdom of a certain ‘smarter than the average bear’ that, its not over till the last out. The reward for Kanbis’ heroics is a semifinal against Rwenzori Warriors, for the right to take on Coast Pekee in the final. Rwenzori’s superior league record stood them in good stead as weather prevented their playoff against Rift Valley Rhinos from taking off.