All Square in Sahara Elite League
Both the Western Chiefs and Eastern Aces bounced back from defeats in the first round of the Sahara Elite League One Day competition to see the table completely level going into the final round on Saturday. Steve Tikolo's Aces recorded a fairly comfortable 5 wicket win over the Southern Stars while Peter Ongondo lead from the front as his Chiefs held of the Nomads to win by 44 runs.
Tikolo once again won the toss for the Aces and his decision to bat first paid early dividends as his front line bowlers ripped through what again looked like a frail Stars line up. Lameck Onyango did the initial damage first trapping Kennedy Obuya in front for 3 and then clean bowling the promoted Stewart Kayne for a duck. Not to be out done, fellow opener, Elijah Otieno then chipped in with the wickets of Peter Kituku (9), clean bowled and Brijal Patel (5), caught by Kush Parmar.
If the Stars had hoped for a respite with the bowling change, they were sadly mistaken as young prospect Nelson Odhiambo got into the act removing his namesake Nehemiah (5) and then Rajesh Varsani who had shown some resistance for his 19. At 6-61, it was looking like another terrible batting performance from the Stars, but 2 players picked primarily for their bowling came to the rescue. Rajesh Bhudia and Hiren Varaiya combined to add 54 for the next wicket before Bhudia was caught behind off the returning Onyango for a fiery 52 off just 32 deliveries. Varaiya at the other end stuck fast and kept the run rate ticking, but was soon to find himself stranded on 35 as Steve Tikolo entered the fray to remove both Darshit Shah (8) and Zahir Abbas (0) to see the innings closed at 159 with five and a half overs still remaining.
In reply, Aces were steered towards their target by a determined Mansukh Naran. He anchored the innings at one end as the stroke makers enjoyed themselves at the other. There was an early scare when fellow opener Kush Parmar fell to Bhudia for a duck with the score still on 3, but Alex Obanda then played a typically aggressive innings to take the score to 52 before he fell for an entertaining 37 off 28. Tikolo then added his own excitement to the game by finding the boundary repeatedly in a run a ball 41 that took the score to 118 before he tried once to often off Hiren Varaiya and was caught by Shah. As is becoming his trademark, Varaiya then struck immediately afterwards trapping Amit Bhudia LBW and offering some small glimmer of hope to the Stars. Ramesh Mepani became Varaiya's third victim when he was clean bowled for 17, but by then the end was in sight and the final runs were fittingly knocked off by Naran who carried his bat with 39 and Lameck Onyango who hit a quick 17 to seal the victory.
In the day's other match, it was agian the team that won the toss that triumphed, although this time Peter Ongondo opted to have a bat. David Maina and Jadavji Jeshani got things off to a good start with a 41 run opening stand before Thomas Odoyo finally broke through when he had Jeshani caught by the energetic Jimmy Kamande for 18. Maina continued to impress and combined beatifully with youngster Nilesh Jeshani to take the score to 135 before he was run out on 75 by Josephat Ababu. Run outs were to be the main avenue of success for the Nomads as both Harish Vekaria (10) and Ken Migai (18) were out in the same manner. Jeshani however continued to compile and had reached a well earned half century before he holed out to Odoyo off the spin of Shem Obado.
At 4-206, the Chiefs had a good platform to launch from, but some good bowling in the final overs kept the lid on. None of the tail managed to really get going and the innings wound to a halt on 237. Obado finished pick of the bowlers with 2-41 off his ten with Odoyo, Ababu and Kamande all finishing with one a piece.
Nomads reply could have gone well had it not been for some impressive bowling from Peter Ongondo and Tony Suji. Ongondo struck early to have Shashikant Sanghani caught for a duck and then Tony Suji and Pritesh Lalji struck in quick succession to remove David Obuya and K Khan to have Nomads teetering on 3-49. Anand Gore (26) and Jimmy Kamande then fought back to put on a further 76 and swing the momentum back towards the Nomads before Gore was caught by Vekaria off Moses Otieno. Joined by Thomas Odoyo, Kamande (75) continued to attack and the match looked still there for the taking until James Ngoche affected the run out to shift the balance of power. Odoyo (31) still looked dangerous scoring at a run a ball, but Peter Ongondo and Suji returned to the attack and once again, the balance of the match shifted as the last 5 wickets fell for just 23 runs. Jadavji Jeshani behind the stumps did well to hold onto three catches and Ongondo completed a fine personal performance to take 4-31 and ensure his side retained a chance of winning the tournament. Suji finished with 2-24 off 8.3 overs.
All four teams have now played two matches, winning one and losing one. this means that not only must a team win their final match to top the table, but they must also ensure they so so with a better net run rate than the other winning team. With a significant bonus at stake for the victors, this should ensure a very exciting day's cricket on Saturday as all four teams press for emphatic victories.