Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The most important day this year

April Fool's day? well for some, perhaps. No - today sees the start of the Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in South Africa and in both groups the top 2 seeds meet each other in the first matches. Cricket Europe are providing great live coverage and previews, so I will concentrate on the Kenyan perspective.

While the title of this article may sound dramatic, in terms of cricket it is very much accurate. Should Kenya beat The Netherlands today, they will have made a huge step towards the Super 8 stage and as both teams should go through, the winner will carry over the points earned from this match, something that could be vital in terms of securing that final 4 position and hence a place in the 2011 World Cup. Failure today certainly does not mean the end of the road for either side, but it will dampen morale and make the rest of the job that much harder.

Both sides come into the game on highs after winning their last two warm up games, the most recent against other sides competing in this tournament, and both sides have spent plenty of time in South Africa to acclimatise. Kenya have 2 injury worries with Kennedy Obuya nursing a thumb injury picked up in the win over Scotland, while Alex Obanda has a back injury, so has missed the warm up games, but is expected to be fit to play.

If Obuya cannot pass a late fitness test, the opening pair will almost certainly be Maurice Ouma and Seren Waters. Should he be fit, then either of those players will probably drop down the order. Obanda should bat 3 and Tikolo (who will also bowl his off spin)will be at 4. Thomas Odoyo has been patchy with the bat, but will probably retain 6th spot after whichever of Ouma and Waters has to make way for Obuya. Odoyo will also be Kenya's key player with the ball. Having been used sparingly in the warm up games, he will be expected to step up and bowl a full 10 overs for this game.
7 & 8 will be filled by Collins Obuya and Jimmy Kamande, the latter who will also bowl his off spin for a few overs at least.

Of the bowlers, only Peter Ongondo (who will open the bowling with Odoyo) and Hiren Varaiya (the left arm spinner who has been the form bowler during the warm ups)are the only 2 certain to start. Nehemiah Odhiambo may have done enough with the bat in the last game to earn him a place, but it is hard to see him chosen ahead of his brother Lameck Onyango or youngster Elijah Otieno in terms of bowling which is what should count if only 3 seamers are chosen.

In the warm up games, Kenya have gone in with 4 seamers, but with the Waters/Obuya/Ouma dilemma - all have scored runs and can potentially win matches, it may be the selectors opt for 3 seamers and 3 spinners to do the bowling. If Obuya's thumb rules him out, then expect both Onyango and Odhiambo to play. If not, Onyango will probably be picked as the most dangerous bowler of the 3 possible.

There is no doubt that with talent like Ryan ten Doeschate and Alex Kervezee, the Netherlands are a very able team and Kenya will have their best possible side on the park. Hopefully we will play to potential and be strong enough to open the tournament with a win. GO KENYA!

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