It was a confident Kenyan team that jetted out from Nairobi on Saturday for their two Intercontinental Cup matches in Sharjah. With the same 14 man squad that accounted for both Canada and Bermuda in Nairobi, there is a sense of continuity in the side and a desire to prove themselves a cut above the opposition at Associate level.
No Tanmay Mishra or Kennedy Obuya means that the top pf the batting order is likely to remain virtually unchanged. Kennedy's brother David will open the batting with wicket keeper Maurice Ouma with youngster Alex Obanda coming in at first drop - a position he is rapidly cementing as his own. Captain, Steve Tikolo, is likely to come in at his favoured number four with the now specialist Collins Obuya at five. Thomas Odoyo has been in mercurial form with the bat and provides a powerful number six, though depending on the state of play, he may come in after Jimmy Kamande who will otherwise bat at seven.
Positions lower down the order will depend who make up the bowlers for Kenya which in turn will depend upon how confident Alfred Njuguna is that his top order will make enough runs. If he is unsure, then Tony Suji is likely to get the nod over either Alfred Luseno or Elijah Otieno. If he plays Suji will bat at eight. If Njuguna is happy that his batsmen do not need propping up then he will probably go with both Luseno and Otieno to give some extra depth to the seam attack.
Kenya's main strike bowler, Peter Ongondo, on Wednesday still only rated himself at 85-90% recovered from an ankle injury sustained in December and with both the youngsters given a good long workout in the practice matches, this would probably be the preferred line up rather than the stronger batting option of Suji. Either way, Hiren Varaiya is virtually certain to come in as a second wicket-taking spinner alongside his captain with Kamande operating as a stock spinner if runs need to be kept down.
If Ongondo plays, which will depend on a late fitness test, he will open the bowling with the ever reliable Thomas Odoyo. Ongondo set a Kenyan record last year for wickets taken in International matches and has set his sights on improving that this year. Odoyo also had one of the best years of his career in 2007 with the ball as well as the bat and the two will be key to Kenya's attack.
While Luseno and Otieno will be champing at the bit to prove themselves worthy of a permanent place in the side as the first choice change bowler, it is likely that Tikolo will be turning to one of his spin options before long. The Kenyans are very aware of Sharjah's reputation for helping spinners and this was backed up by the number of wickets taken by slow bowlers in Namibia's win over the UAE.
Whatever the final make up of the eleven to take the field against Namibia, make no mistake that they mean business. All the talk in the camp before this match is about ensuring that they secure top spot in the league by taking the full forty points on offer. Namibia's win over the UAE will only serve as added incentive as Kenya will want to put as much between them and second place as possible before their trip to Europe later in the year.