Southern Stars clinch nailbiting maiden victory
After failing to win a match in the 20-20 phase of the Sahara Elite Leagues, the Southern Stars bounced back with a thrilling 8 run One Day win over the Western Chiefs at Nairobi Gymkhana. Stars' Kenyan internationals, Kennedy Obuya and Nehemiah lead the attack for their side scoring 93 and taking 4-36 respectively.
Peter Ongondo won the toss for the Western Chiefs and sent the stars in hoping to make inroads into a side that looked to be lacking in confidence having so far failed to win a game at this level. Ongondo showed the way for his side as he struck twice early on to have Amit Bhudia bowled for 2 and then the struggling Peter Kituku caught behind for 3. Stars were 2-42, but unlike previous matches where their middle order has collapsed, this time Kennedy Obuya was able to rally his team and though Brijal Patel (15) and Nehemiah Odhiambo (9) both fell victim to the off spin of youngster James Ngoche, Obuya was able to keep the scoreboard ticking and the pressure off.
With the dismissal of Odhiambo, Obuya finally found a partner to support him in Rajesh Bhudia and the two added 84 for the fifth wicket before Obuya fell agonisingly short of a well deserved century when Ken Migai took the catch of the bowling of Moses Otieno (5-169). Obuya's 93 came off 119 deliveries and included eleven 4s and one 6. Stewart Kayne then joined Bhudia and the two continued to press the advantage before Bhudia (44 off 49) came unstuck to Harish Vekaria with the score on 199.
With overs running out, Stars pushed their luck to the limit and though they eventually ran out of wickets on the very last ball, Kayne (17 off 17) had marshalled the tail well enough to take the score to 220. At he half way point, honours looked about even between the teams. Obuya, Bhudia and Kayne would have been happy with their performances while the Chiefs would also have been confident of chasing down the total that looked initially about 20 runs short of par.
It was to prove a fascinating chase. Initially, Nehemiah Odhiambo swung the game the way of Souths when he bowled Jadavji Jeshani for 6 with the score only on 12 and then compounded the damage by taking the scalp of the potentially dangerous Harshil Sanghani (11) 24 runs later. When Darshit Shah got in on the action to have David Maina (28) caught by Odhiambo just when he was beginning to get going, things were beginning to look bleak for Chiefs. Ken Migai (27) and Harish Vekaria (36) had other ideas however and fought back with a well made 64 run partnership for the fourth wicket.
Again, just as the balance of the match seemed to have shifted, three wickets fell in quick succession. Returning to the attack, Nehemiah Odhiambo did well off his own bowling to remove Vekaria caught and bowled and then Hiren Varaiya trapped Migai LBW in the middle of a miserly spell that had already caused frustration for the Chiefs. 3-130 had slipped to 6-145 when Jai Trivedi bowled Pritesh Lalji for a golden duck and the Stars were once again back in the driving seat.
Perhaps it is not surprising that the next turn in the match was orchestrated by Peter Ongondo. The Chief's captain hit out in typical aggressive fashion, scoring a run-a-ball 44 to bring Chiefs within sight of victory at 7-190 before he too fell to Trivedi. With only 31 runs needed for victory, Ongondo's departure threw the chiefs into panic and once again a flurry of wickets fell as they tried to knock off the remaining runs quicker than was perhaps necessary. Moses Otieno (1) was the next to fall, caught Abbas bowled Bhudia, but the game could still have been there for the Chiefs at 8-208. It was not to be. Tight fielding by Stars forced the mistake from James Ngoche, Kennedy Obuya effecting the run out (9-211) and then Nehemiah Odhiambo clean bowled Amit Bij for a duck to complete the tightest of victories.
For the Southern Stars, this win will erase all the bad memories from the 20-20 tournament and means that they can now count themselves as genuine contenders at this level, something that had been questioned before this match. Perhaps there is still some room for tweaking of the batting order, but they will feel rejuvenated and awash with confidence after their win. they will be looking to prove it was not just a one-off when they take on the Eastern Aces in their next game. For the Chiefs, it will be a case of looking back and improving how they behave under pressure. This match should have been theirs to win and they will be concerned that they allowed the Stars to get away with it having come so close themselves. Other members of the team need to stand up and give Ongondo more support if they are going to challenge the Nomads this Saturday.