'Obanda hope all yet who enter here . . .'
Kenya bounced back in determined fashion from the trauma of their defeat by the UAE yesterday, trouncing Canada by nine wickets to keep their hopes of qualifying for the World Twenty20 tournament alive.
Whatever coach Eldine Baptiste and skipper Maurice Ouma had said to their squad in a long dressing-room session after yesterday's game, it clearly had a dramatic effect on the stunned Kenyans. They made two changes to the side, dropping David Obuya and Nelson Odhiambo and bringing in veteran Tony Suji and youngster Shem Ngoche, and radically recast their tactics into the bargain.
The first sign of the rethink was when Hiren Varaiya bowled the opening over after Ouma put Canada in, and the left-arm spinner had an immediate success by bowling John Davison with the fourth ball of the game and the first the opener had faced. Four spinners, indeed, bowled the first eight overs, with Jimmy Kamande getting rid of both Hiral Patel and the dangerous Rizwan Cheema, who had himself responded to the challenge by smashing Steve Tikolo for three sixes in as many overs but who was eventually caught behind by Ouma.
That made Canada 37 for three (Cheema having made 32 of them, from just 22 deliveries), and it took a stand of 58 between Geoff Barnett and Ash Bagai to get them back into the game. But it took them 50 balls, and when Barnett fell to a magnificent diving catch at deep cover by Nehemiah Odhiambo off the bowling of Tikolo, having made a 28-ball 30, Kenya were still in control.
Bagai top-edged Lameck Onyango to keeper Ouma in the 18th over, having made 36 at exactly a run a ball, and although Ian Bilcliff and Umar Bhatti hit the ball cleanly during brief stays at the wicket, a final over by Nehemiah Odhiambo in which he claimed three wickets prevented Canada from getting any further than 138 for nine.
Alex Obanda opened with Tikolo, and it quickly became apparent that the lessons of the UAE game had been well and truly learned. The batting then had been somewhere between somnolent and purposeless, as the batsmen allowed the asking rate to drift beyond their reach.
Obanda took 13 off Umar Bhatti's opening over, and although Bagai tried eight bowlers before he gave anyone a second over, the scoring rate remained over ten. Obanda's onslaught was relentless: he hit 11 fours and a six in making 79 off just 48 deliveries, and although Tikolo was content to play second fiddle, he contributed 41 in 30 balls to an opening stand of 126.
Only Sunil Dhaniram was able to staunch the flow of runs to any degree at all, and it was he who finally got rid of Obanda, trapping him in front in the 13th over. But by that time only 13 were needed for victory, and Tikolo duly brought up his own half-century with the winning runs with more than five overs to spare.
There could only be one Man of the Match: the superb Obanda.