Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kenya U17s too experienced for enthusiastic Ghana

Kenya’s Under 17 side recovered from an early Ghanaian onslaught to win their first match in the ACA Continental Championship. Winning the toss, Kenya elected to bat and were soon in trouble as Ghana’s opening bowlers kept to a good line and length and gained a mental edge over their hosts. They received plenty of assistance from the overcast conditions and Kenya’s top order capitulated to be 44/5 at drinks. Godfred Bakiweyen was the chief destroyer for Ghana claiming 3/33 in his 10 overs.

From this disastrous start, Kenya’s middle order rallied and Ken Owino and Raj Shikotra, one of several players from the coast, began to rebuild. Owino was the next to fall, but by then Shikotra had got his eye in and was playing the Ghanaian bowlers with a confidence lacked by the earlier batsmen. He was joined at the crease by Harrison Ambani who, despite clear instructions from coach and teammates, was not going to die wondering. Suddenly it seemed as though Kenya were in the ascendancy as balls began to disappear to the fence and Ghanaian chat that had been a lively part of the proceedings early in the day dried up.

Ambani eventually holed out in the deep for 33 off 34 balls, but it was an innings that had swung momentum towards the hosts and had enabled Shikotra to bring up his half century. Joseph Onyango was the next Kenyan batsman in and while he played with a touch more caution than Ambani, was brutal on anything short and again Kenya were able to build a dangerous partnership. Shikotra did finally fall for 78 off 74 balls as he tried to accelerate his innings into the final few overs, but he can be proud of what in the end turned out to be a match-winning innings. From never looking like they were going to bat even 25 overs or reach 100, Kenya finally closed their innings on 218/9 and went into lunch confident of defending the total.

Nairobi Gymkhana put on a wonderful spread and it must have agreed with the Ghanaian openers who took to the run chase with the same gusto this reporter took to lunch. Their cause was certainly helped by wayward bowling from Kenya’s seamers who seemed not to have learned the lesson their opposition counterparts had put on in the morning. Wides were in abundance and line and length seemed as neglected as salad at a children’s tea party. After 10 overs Ghana were 55-1 with the only wicket having come from a run out. Well ahead of the required run rate and looking comfortable with whatever was dished up to them they once again had Kenya in all sorts of trouble.

Kenya’s captain Kennedy Owino then turned to his spinners and it proved to be a decision that totally changed the game. From looking completely at ease with the ball coming onto the bat, the visitors now struggled to get bat to ball and when they did the timing was gone. Runs dried up and as the pressure built, so the wickets began to fall. It was not the spectacular collapse that Kenya had experienced earlier, rather a steady trickle of wickets that gradually and continually swung the match in Kenya’s favour. All the Kenyan spinners picked up wickets, but it was Raj Savala who produced the best figures, taking 3/22 of his 10 overs. Just as his namesake had turned the match with his batting, so his spell with the ball ensured Kenya would be able to defend their total.

In the end Kenya were to win this match by 64 runs, but had Ghana had a bit more experience one feels that this could have ended very differently for Kenya. They will have to raise the level of their game tomorrow if they are going to beat a very able Namibian outfit. The top order batsmen need to apply themselves, the seamers must cut down on extras and fielding can also be sharper. That said, at the end of the day a win is a win and the team can be proud of the way they fought out of trouble in both innings.

Kenya U17 218/9 (Raj Shikotra 78, Harrison Ambani 33, Joseph Onyango 33, Godfred Bakiweyen 3/33, David Ankah 2/46)
Ghana U17 154 (Clement Ateak 34, Gabriel Ananya 29, Festus Okine 22, Raj Savala 3/22, Neel Shah 2/22, Vinit Shikotra 2/24)
By 64 runs
Kenya unofficial man of the match Raj Shikotra.

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