Improved Stars still lose final match
What has been a rough time for the Southern Stars didn't improve yesterday as they lost their third and final match of the Sahara Elite League 20-20 competition to the Northern Nomads in a tight game held at Nairobi Gymkhana. Nomads' win means they finish second in the tournament behind the unbeaten Eastern Aces while the Stars bring up the bottom of the table behind the Western Chiefs.
It could have been so much better for the Stars if the rest of the team had managed to back up a brilliant bowling performance by Rajesh Bhudia. Opening the bowling for Stars after Thomas Odoyo won the toss and elected to bat, Bhudia ripped through the Nomads top order in a fiery opening spell of 4 overs, 2 maidens, 3 wickets for 8 runs. His first victim was Anand Gore who faced 12 deliveries for his duck, caught by Brijal Patel with 3 on the scoreboard. Kenyan opener, David Obuya, fell not long after, caught behind for 10 off 11. At this point only 2 runs had been conceded by Bhudia.
A change in the bowling allowed Nomads to fight back as Thomas Odoyo and Rakep Patel put on 55 for the third wicket to take the total to 72 before Patel became Hiren Varaiya's first and only wicket of the tournament. His dismissal, caught by Darshit Shah for 27 off 37 brought the experienced Jimmy Kamande to the crease and together he and Odoyo continued the fightback. With Odoyo the main aggressor, Kamande was content to play a supporting role and ticked the board over with an unbeaten 14 off 16 deliveries. By rights, Odoyo should also have finished unbeaten having bludgeoned his way to 64 off only 47 deliveries including four 4s and four 6s. The return of Bhudia in the final over however proved his undoing as he edged the last ball of the match to Kennedy Obuya who pouched the catch to give Bhudia a well deserved third wicket.
Northerns finished on 136 for the loss of 4 wickets and it was the latter statistic that made the difference between the two teams. Stars started well in seeing off the dangerous Alfred Luseno and were looking good at 7.5 an over when Alpesh Bhudia came unstuck to Josephat Ababu for 12. Kennedy Obuya (27 off 26) and Dharmendra Mepani (17 off 17) did their best to maintain the run rate, but persistence paid for Northerns as Odoyo turned to his spinners.
Kamande struck first in the 9th over when Obuya holed out to Kenyan Under 19 Karan Kaul and three overs later, Mepani was clean bowled by the ever reliable Shem Obado. At this point, Stars were still on track needing only another 55 off 8 overs but the spinners stuck to their task and Nehemiah Odhiambo was next man out for 4 when Kamande held onto the catch off the bowling of Rakep Patel. Four balls later Kamande was again in the action as he had Brijal Patel beaten all ends up for 20 off 24 and when Rajesh Bhudia also had the house knocked over by Ababu in the 18th, one got the feeling that it was never meant to be for Stars.
In the end, the Stars finished 14 runs short, but one got the feeling that with a little more application and possibly a change in selection or two - Stewart Kayne who is yet to be dismissed in the tournament and has scored 26 runs at a strike rate of 144, was for some reason left out, they will still be a force to be reckoned with come the 50 over tournament that starts next week. Northerns for their part will be satisfied at their second win of the weekend and the way they bounced back from their first up defeat to Steve Tikolo's Aces. In the longer form of the game, so long as Odoyo is fit to bowl, they will certainly consider themselves in with a chance of claiming the title. For the time being though, they must be content with second place in the 20-20s.