Thursday, April 02, 2009

Falling at the first hurdle

In my post yesterday I stressed the importance of Kenya winning their opening match of the World Cup Qualifiers against The Netherlands. Some lacklustre batting and poor fielding from Kenya and the brilliance of Ryan ten Doeschate meant that it was not to be and that the pressure is now well and truly on the team to bounce back.

Yesterday's match was always expected to be the toughest of the group games for Kenya, but with today's opponents, the UAE upsetting Bermuda and Afghanistan also impressing to dispose of the Danes, this group is very much open and any more slip ups will be catastrophic.

Full reports of yesterday's match can be found on the usual websites, so I will stick to a few things I noticed. One of these was that there has been an obvious drop in the standard of fielding since the departure of Roger Harper as coach. Too often pressure was released on the Dutch due to simple fielding errors that allowed dot balls to become singles or singles to become twos.

From a batting perspective, there is not the application of the batsmen once in to go on to bigger scores. Thank heavens for Jimmy Kamande fine half century and Nehemiah Odhiambo who's lusty hitting allowed Kenya to set what could have been a defendable total. All other batsmen started, then got out and at this level, this will be punished.

With the ball, it was a case of strange decisions and one too many overs for both Onyango and Odhiambo who had bowled well up until then. The extra 2 overs they bowled instead of bringing Varaiya on earlier meant that ten Doeschate and Zuiderant were more settled by the time the spinner came on and though he troubled both batsmen early, he also came in for some stick as they were already set. I was also unhapy with the reintroduction of the change bowlers later in the match when the spinners should have been given a better run.

In the end, the way the Dutch batted, it may not have effected the outcome, but it is amazing what a bit of pressure can do. There is not much time to turn things around before facing the Emirates, but hopefully Kenya will put on a better performance and bounce back. If not, the consequences for Kenyan Cricket look dire indeed.

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!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Tight win in last warm up game

Sure it was a warm up game and this meant that the batting and bowling line ups could be tinkered with to an extent during the game (Hiren Varaiya bowled but did not bat for example), but it was also a win over Scotland, one of the co-favourites to win the WC qualifiers.

A full scorecard can be found on Cricket Europe, but in summary, Kenya batted first and despite losing both openers (Waters and K Obuya)early were for once able to build partnerships through the middle order. Though there was once again the irritating habit of batsmen getting starts and then getting out, Ouma (35), Tikolo (46) and C Obuya (45) did enough to set up a solid platform for Kenya.

Nehemiah Odhiambo then chipped in with a lusty unbeaten 27 off 17 to take Kenya to 243/9, a total that proved just enough to defend. Scotland also built partnerships, but perhaps the difference was that when Kenya got wickets, they tended to come in pairs. Odoyo only bowled 5 overs, but his figures of 1/9 put the pressure on as usual Peter Ongondo (10-1-37-1) provided a useful counter at the beginning of the innings.

Hiren Varaiya again picked up the most wickets, taking 3/28 while Lameck Onyango (9-0-44-1) and Odhiambo (7-1-43-2) also did their bit, though Odhiambo continues to be expensive. In the end, Scotland were bowled out for 236 with Wright stranded on 47. A good win for Kenya, but we really need batsmen to go on to big scores once they are in rather than getting out in the 30s and 40s.

Despite the wickets, the 3rd and 4th seamer spots are a concern. Onyango looks to have done enough to be preferred first change, but both Bhudia (4-0-24-0) and Odhiambo again went for 6 an over, which is too expensive for those vital overs.

2 players missed this match who I believe should start - Alex Obanda (at 3 - is he injured?) and Elijah Otieno (4th seamer), other wise this looked like a good Kenya side. With this win, confidence should be high before the tournament propoer starts on Wednesday with what should be Kenya's toughest group match against The Netherlands and the dangerous Ryan ten Doeschate. They have been in great form recently, probably the best of the Associates going into the tournament and will be a tough task first up. With Odoyo bowling 10 overs however, Kenya should have the firepower to keep them under control. Here's hoping!