World Twenty20 Qualifier 2015
Beleaguered Kenya look to bounce back
Since a disappointing 11th place finish at the last Qualifier, Kenya have been on the recieving end of a 5-0 trouncing in Pakistan, had a poor World Cricket League Division 2, and said goodbye to several key players.
The iconic Steve Tikolo, lead run-scorer and wicket taker for his country at the last edition, has since moved into coaching, and young skipper Rakep Patel leads a side also lacking key performers Ragheb Aga and Tanmay Mishra.
Once thought a sure pick for 11th Test Nation, these days Kenya are struggling to claw their way back to the top table of Assoctiates cricket. A last minute intervention from the ICC saw Kenya and Nepal saved from 50-over pergatory after WCL division 2 by means of a post-tournament extension of the WCL Championship qualification to the third and fourth placed teams, but Kenya can expect no such favours here.
A second place finish at the Africa T20 Championships earned them a berth at the tournament in the tougher Group B, but Kenya were alarmingly reliant on young keeper-batsman and the veteran Collins Obuya for runs even against weaker African teams, the pair providing the top two indivdual scores in three of the five matches, with only five scores over twenty from other batsmen in the entire tournament.
Opener Alex Obanda has looked intermittently capable, and the middle and lower order bosts a few batsmen able to chip in quick runs - not least the captain himself, but Karim and Obuya outscoring the rest the brittle batting line-up is the norm taher than the exception.
The pace trio of Lucas Ndandason an Nelson and Nehemiah Odhiambo hace had good returns in the lead up to the tournament, but faced little in the way of top-class opposition. Spinners Shem and James Ngoche have been struggling even against such opposition as Botswana and Jersey in the run up the tournament, which cannot bode well for their fortunes against Scotland, the Netherlands or Afghanistan.
There nevertheless remains plenty of pace and muscle in this Kenyan side, and they've more experience than several of the sides they'll be facing. A top four finish is certainly not beyond them and in the playoffs the opposition is likely to get easier. A good run will be required to get them there, but there's just a chance Patel's men might find their feet and take the first step on a long road back to the one-but-top table.
Star Man: Irfan Karim. The wristy and elegant number three has a cool head, a wide array of shots, and a good record of holding Kenyan innings together. Capable of rapid acceleration when necessary, the young keeper-batsman will be key to Kenyan hopes.
Players to watch: The evergreen Collins Obuya is in typically beligerent form, and Nelson Odhiambo has shown moments of brilliance with ball in hand even against top-level opposition.
CricketEurope verdict: Kenya can't be called anything but underdogs in a tough group, but have the talent to cause upsets. Just edging into the playoffs at the expense of one of the four more fancied teams would not be a huge surprise.
KENYA: Rakep Patel (captain), Emmanuel Bundi, Narendra Kalyan, Irfan Karim, Karan Kaul, Lucas Ndandason, James Ngoche, Shem Ngoche, Collins Obuya, Eugene Ochieng, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Morris Ouma, Gurdeep Singh