Kenya just hold on to beat Scotland
Kenya scored an important psychological point by beating Scotland by 7 runs in Benoni on Sunday, but the Scots will be massively disappointed to have missed out when the game seemed to be theirs for the taking with just a handful of overs left.
It was a match of many twists and turns, with Kenya, having elected to bat first, recovering well from a poor start in which Calum MacLeod removed both openers with just 16 on the board.
Maurice Ouma (35) and Steve Tikolo (46) restored the situation somewhat with a fine third-wicket partnership of 71, and after they had departed, falling to the spinners Majid Haq and Moneeb Iqbal respectively, Collins Obuya contributed a valuable 45, marshalling the lower order in the process.
Craig Wright bowled a lively spell early on, and when he returned in the 40th over he had immediate success, dismissing first Jimmy Kamande and then, in the space of three balls, Rajesh Bhudia and Collins Obuya.
Even so, with Nehemiah Odhiambo hitting some lusty blows in the final overs, Kenya posted a fairly solid 243 for nine.
MacLeod finished with three for 17 from seven overs, and Wright three for 38 from ten. One point of concern for the Scots, however, will be that they conceded 33 extras, including 21 wides.
Scotland, too, lost early wickets, Thomas Odoyo having Ryan Watson caught at slip and Peter Ongondo snapping up a return catch from Kyle Coetzer, and they also had to recover from 16 for two.
Gavin Hamilton and Navdeep Poonia added 72 for the third wicket as the Scottish innings uncannily followed the pattern of the Kenyan one, but when Poonia fell to left-arm spinner Hiren Varaiya and Colin Smith followed three balls later, the Kenyans seemed to gain the upper hand.
Hamilton was the mainstay of the innings, and he and Neil McCallum took the total along to 129 before a misunderstanding led to both batsmen sharing the same crease and Hamilton forced to depart for an excellent 52.
McCallum now had to take over, and after Qasim Sheikh became the third duck of the innings, he and Craig Wright added 66 for the seventh wicket in a stand which swung the game back Scotland’s way.
Exactly 50 were needed off the last eight overs, but then McCallum holed out at deep cover off Odhiambo for an excellent 63-ball 70, including six fours and two sixes.
Jan Stander joined Wright, and as they proceeded at better than a run a ball the Kenyans seemed to be cracking under the pressure, a series of misfields, wild throws and a dropped catch contributing to their problems.
Unaccountably, Tikolo did not turn to Varaiya, who had bowled only four overs to this point, until the 47th over, but when he finally did so the spinner immediately put the brake on the Scots’ progress.
13 were now needed off the last three, but Lameck Onyango bowled Stander with the third ball of the next over, and only two singles came from the remaining three deliveries.
10 off two, but after Wright hit a couple off Varaiya’s first ball, MacLeod was run out off the next and then Haq clipped the first ball he received straight to Kamande and the Kenyans had squeaked home, Varaiya finishing with three for 28.
They celebrated as if qualification for the World Cup itself were riding on the result.
With both sides facing tough opening fixtures on Wednesday – Scotland meet Ireland in Benoni, while Kenya take on The Netherlands in Potchefstroom – there will be some fine tuning to be tackled by the coaching staffs in the intervening days. But for all its imperfections, it was a fascinating game of cricket.