Women bowl over critics, end fine year at the crease

Tuesday December 20 2016

Kenyan women cricketers celebrate with the trophy after they beat  United Arab Emirates to win the inaugural International Women’s T20 Cup at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on December 19,2016. PHOTO | COURTESY |

Kenyan women cricketers celebrate with the trophy after they beat United Arab Emirates to win the inaugural International Women’s T20 Cup at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on December 19,2016. PHOTO | COURTESY |  

By RICHARD MWANGI
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Monday’s victory for Kenya at the inaugural International Women’s Twenty-20 Cup organised by the Emirates Cricket Board at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium summed up a promising year for the resurgent game in Kenya.

Kenya beat hosts the United Arab Emirates (UAE) by five wickets to lift their first international silverware in only their first foray beyond the African borders.

The victory laid to rest ghosts of the 1996 men’s ICC Trophy in which the UAE edged out the hosts by two wickets at the Ruaraka Sports Club to lead runners-up Kenya and third-placed Netherlands into the 1996 World Cup where Kenya scored that memorable upset victory over Brian Lara’s West Indies.

In the ICC Trophy final, Kenya rallied to 281 for the loss of six wickets in an innings cushioned by legendary knocks by Maurice Odumbe (86), Steve Tikolo (54) and Kennedy Obuya (49), a target the largely expatriate UAE side surpassed thanks to the pivotal opening stand of 141 between Riaz Poonawala (71) and Azhar Saeed (59).

LACK OF PRROGRAMMES

Kenya then rose to dizzying heights, serially qualifying for the World Cup and racing to the semi-finals in the 2003 tournament in Cape Town.

Subsequently, the game suffered a serious blow with lack of development programmes exposing the high-riding side of the 1990s, and the game hardly known to women players.

But that seems to be quickly changing with the national women’s team now holding their own and making the country proud internationally. And while the women’s star started to shine in 2016, some 20 years after Odumbe, Tikolo, Obuya and co. dominated global headlines, the men’s team also made an effort to get some runs on the board, finally.

Hong Kong’s tour of Kenya last month for the ICC World Cricket League championship match against the hosts was the year’s landmark in the men’s game.

It was the first international game to be held in Nairobi since 2011, when the UAE toured for a tournament sanctioned by the International Cricket Council.

While Hong Kong’s visit exposed frailties of Kenyan players, the tour also set the stage for more visits and first class matches returning to Kenya with The Netherlands expected between July and November, 2017.

STRAY LIONS ROAR

The ICC had treated Kenya as unsafe destination, a wicket made wicked by several terrorist attacks in the country that have since eased off. In the interim, Dubai was treated as Kenya’s temporary “home ground.”

Struggling Kenya beat Hong Kong by three wickets through the Duckworth-Lewis method employed for weather-shortened games but lost the second duel by 39 runs through same revised scoring method.

The ICC is using the World Cricket League as a pre-qualifier for the 2019 World Cup in England where for the first time in decades, only 10 teams will compete.

On the league front, the dominance of Kanbis in the Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association Super League was brought to an end by Stray Lions this season.

The return of professional players from the sub-continent, particularly India, has helped in improving the standard of the league in 2016.

THE YEAR IN NUMBERS

December in Sharjah

UAE Women’s Twenty20 Cup.

Kenya won by five wickets.

UAE  (65 all out in 17.4 overs)

Kenya (69 for 5 in 16overs)

September in Nairobi.

Four Nations tournament: 50 overs.

Kenya, Uganda, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Kenya (296 for 4 in 39.4 overs) beat Saudi Arabia (292 for 9 in 50 overs) by six wickets.

Twenty 20: Qatar won by 2 wickets.

Kenya (158 for 7 in 20 overs)

Qatar 159 for 8 in 19.4 overs.