Chiefs, Aces start Elite Leagues in emphatic fashion
In the hype preceding the competition, Cricket Kenya stressed that the four teams chosen for the Sahara Elite Leagues would be of equal strengths. If the results from the first matches are anything to go by, the Western Chiefs and Eastern Aces may have turned that thinking on its head.
It was the Chiefs who notched up the first win of the tournament as they breezed past a disappointing Southern Stars outfit at Gymkhana on Saturday morning. Winning the toss, Peter Ongondo put the Stars in to bat and lead by example having Alpesh Bhudia caught by Tony Suji off the fifth legal delivery of the match. Disaster followed for the Stars in the next over as Brijal Patel was run out by Ken Migai and when youngster Moses Otieno emulated his captain by trapping Peter Kituku LBW with just his third delivery, it was already looking like a tough day in the office for Kennedy Obuya's team who were 3-3 with only an over and a half played.
Together with Nehemiah Odhiambo, the Stars' captain dug in and for a while it looked as though the pair would restore some dignity. Tight bowling from Chiefs kept the pressure on however and Odhiambo fell to Otieno half an hour later for what turned out to be an innings high 17 with the score still only on 26. Obuya followed in the next over as Tony Suji collected the first of a brace of wickets. His second was Rajesh Bhudia for 1 in his third and final over, a spell that gave away only 3 runs and effectively knocked the stuffing out of the Southerns' middle order. Rajesh Varsani fell for just 6 to his namesake Harish to see the score slip to 36-7 and it looked all but over before it had really started for the Stars. A brief flurry by Stewart Kayne (7*) and Amit Shukla took the score from 36-8 to 55-9 after Hiren Varaiya was out stumped by Maurice Ouma off Amit Bij, who also broke the Kayne-Shukla partnership when Shukla holed out to Varsani. 2 runs later, Jai Trivedi was last man out, run out by Tony Suji to end his teams discomfort with 4 overs still remaining.
58 was never going to be enough to test a team with the batting capabilities of the Chiefs and the Stars did not help themselves by giving away 8 wides and 2 no balls in the 11 overs it took Chiefs to knock off the runs. Nehemiah Odhiambo was the main culprit giving away 8 of those sundries as he went for 21 runs off his three overs. Chiefs did get some minor consolation when they picked up the wicket of Ouma: caught Alpesh Bhudia, bowled Trivedi for 12, but by then the Chiefs were already on 41 and the match was as good as won. Tony Suji (5*) joined opener Jadavji Jesani (31*) to knock off the winning runs and see the Western Chiefs register the first win of the tournament with just under 9 overs still in the bank. It was a perfect start to the season for the Chiefs and they will go into next weekend's matches full of confidence. For Souths on the other hand, it will be back to the drawing board as they seek to sort out their batting in what will seem a very short six days.
In the second match, Steve Tikolo's Eastern Aces looked equally commanding as they blitzed the Northern Nomads by a similar margin. Tikolo won the toss and like Ongondo in the morning, opted to have a bowl. Elijah Otieno provided the breakthrough for Aces in the second over when he had David Obuya caught by his brother Charles for 2. It was an early setback for the Nomads, but Shashikant Sanghani fought back with an aggressive 37 of just 23 deliveries. He stroked six 4s and one 6 to put Northerns right back in the game before Nelson 'Mandela' Odhiambo struck twice in quick succession to remove him clean bowled and his partner, Anand Gore, out caught for 10. With only three wickets down and 11 overs still to play, Nomads had the potentially explosive pair of skipper Thomas Odoyo and Jimmy Kamande at the crease and were looking at making a decent score.
It was not to be. Odoyo found himself tied down then trapped LBW for a duck by Ramesh Mepani with the score on 71 and then Kamande, who had been threatening to cut loose with 17 off 21 followed his captain back to the pavilion, clean bowled by Tikolo. Rakep Patel perished in the same manner for 11 off 12 and Ahmed Fazal gave Lameck Onyango his only wicket of the match when he was caught by Newton Muthee for a slightly more sedate 9. Nomads had slipped from a potential platform to scratching out the last few overs and though they finished with 2 wickets still remaining - Josephat Ababu was run out on the final ball, they would be disappointed not to have produced a bigger total than 105 after Sanghani's efforts at the beginning of the innings. For the Aces, Tikolo will be happy with the way his bowlers performed, especially the young pair of Elijah Otieno (4-0-16-1) and Nelson Odhiambo (4-0-11-2).
The Aces reply suffered a minor blow when Newton Muthee fell victim to speedster Alfred Luseno in an eventful second over. Luseno bowled 4 wides before his third legal delivery found the edge and Mohammed Fazal pouched the catch. With the score on 11, only 4 runs had come off the bat. From then on, Nomads did improve their line, but it was to no avail as Alex Obanda (51* off 41) and Steve Tikolo (48* off 36) put on a batting masterclass to race their side to victory in under 14 overs. Both hit seven fours and Obanda cleared the ropes twice to his captain's one. It is a pairing that looked good on paper even before the competition began and looks even better now. Like the Chiefs, the Aces will look forward to next weekend's fixtures full of confidence, while Thomas Odoyo must rally his troops if they are to bounce back. The final game of the tournament on Sunday afternoon sees the Aces take on the Chiefs in what is already looking like being the decider for the 20-20 tournament.