Saturday, February 03, 2007

What a match!

I have written a full report of this match on Cricketeurope, but there are some things too good to visit just once. This was one of those games that cricket is all about. It had centuries, it had great bowling, it had moments of utter madness and then it had Thomas Odoyo. His blitz in the final overs took Kenya to their third victory in the tournament and leaves them one win away from a certain place in the final and a berth at the 20-20 World Cup.
There were a few supporters who turned up to the game, and their vocal support was joyous to behold. Hopefully the footage of them made it to local tv to encourage others to come down and showed them how much fun can be had at cricket. Those that missed it, missed a real cracker and I defy any sports fan, irrespective of code, to watch a match like that and not get hooked.
Next opportunity is Sunday at Gymkhana - a weekend day, so no excuses. If you are in Nairobi, come down and see what it is all about. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

A good start

Kenya are off to just about the best start possible in the World Cricket League division 1 in Nairobi. Having disposed of Bermuda by a margin of 10 wickets in the opening game of the tournament on Monday, Steve Tikolo's men backed that up today with a solid 7 wicket win over The Netherlands. Match reports for all the WCL games can be found at Cricketeurope along with live coverage as the games unfold (technical glitches permitting).

Both matches have seen Tikolo win the toss and bowl first, and both times he has been rewarded by his front line bowlers. Thomas Odoyo and Peter Ongondo are fast forming a formidable partnership with one building pressure leading to the other taking crucial early wickets. Odoyo is looking especially lively and has troubled all the batsmen who have faced him so far. This has enabled the later bowlers to really put the squeeze on the opponents and in both matches, they capitalised.

Hiren Varaiya continues to improve and impress with his spin. Watching a good spinner in action in always a pleasure, and the young leftie is no exception. So far in the competition, he has bowled 20 overs only conceding 32 runs and picked up 4 wickets as well. Most incredible is his tally of 9 maidens. 5 of these were his last 5 overs against Bermuda and have contributed in no small way to the small totals made by both opposing teams. Ably assisted by Tikolo, and today Kamande, in the spin department, Varaiya is for my money at least, developing into one of Kenya's key players. He will of course come up against stiffer competition in the World Cup and against Test teams in the future, but for now he deserves recognition for a fantastic start to what will hopefully be a long and fruitful One Day career.

If the bowlers have impressed with their demolition efforts, it is the Kenyan opening batsmen who have stolen plaudits in terms of man-of-the-match awards. Against Bermuda, it was David Obuya whose unbeaten 74 (which equaled his personal best) gave him the honours, much to the delight of his team mates who greeted the decision with cries of "Lion! Lion!". Today, it was fellow opener Maurice Ouma (47) who earned the judges decision and, while it would be nice to see the bowlers recognised for setting up the wins, is a fitting tribute for a player who finally seems to have shaken the monkey off his back.

Without wishing to drive the team to complacency - they have stern tests just ahead in the form of Ireland and Scotland who are both in fine form, Kenya are playing like a quality unit. Their fielding has been superb, illustrated by a wonderful catch today by David Obuya (running forward from the deep and just scooping the ball up before it hit the turf). Both Mishra and Kamande produced real gems of run outs and Varaiya's return catch to dismiss Adeel Raja was also inspired. Roger Harper and Steve Tikolo have both praised the younger players for injecting spirit and intensity into the side, and it is easy to see why they are happy with the new crop coming through.

Tomorrow is a rest day and it will be Harper's mission to ensure that over-confidence does not creep in before Friday's match against Ireland at Ruaraka. 'The other team in green' bounced back from a narrow first up loss to Scotland to dispose of Bermuda today. Despite the slip-up in the opening game, they are still a formidable unit and cannot be taken lightly. A place in the finals is still very much within the grasp of any of the top 4 teams and Kenya must keep up their concentration to ensure they remain in control. For those who have not yet made it down to the grounds, you are missing some great cricket and wonderful entertainment. I strongly urge you to get down to Ruaraka on Friday to support the team. That is the very least they deserve for the effort shown so far.