Kenya’s glorious return to the global cricket stage has been realised following the heroics of the Under-19 team who upset the form book to soundly beat Uganda by seven wickets and qualify for the 2018 World Cup in New Zealand on Saturday.
The scenes were reminiscent of the yesteryears when Kenya impressed in the 2003 and 2006 World Cups as virtual unknowns. The atmosphere was electric and the buzzing crowd who filled the seats at Nairobi Gymakhana got their money’s worth.
Interestingly, Uganda who had won the toss, was all out with a meagre score of 60 runs in 17.1 overs. Kenya then conjured up quick scores of 61/3 in 8.3 overs to hand Francis Angara’s side a monumental task.
Kenya’s skipper Sachin Bhudia and rookie Maxwell Ager collected three wickets apiece but it was the remarkable and composed batting of opener Thomas Ochieng—who secured a solo 26 off 22 run score—that was the main talking point.
Prior to this meeting, pundits had not given Kenya any chance given Uganda had won all three previous matches and had a superior net run rate of 2.82 over their rivals.
By the time the first innings were done, quick calculation suggested they needed to win by a run rate of three inside at least 20.33 overs with Ochien’g, an Obuya Cricket Academy graduate, deployed as the main run getter given his good hitting skills.
Kenya’s coach Jimmy Kamande was also lauded for moving Dennis Musyoka to the middle order thus offering Ochieng a start, a decision that proved to be a masterstroke as the latter’s intelligent strikes, timed runs and communication authority brought calmness to the entire field.
Despite Aman Gandhi being bowled out by Kenneth Waiswa off the eighth ball with a score of only 05 on the board, Ochien’g withstood pressure and was to be crowned king when his low hitter earned four easy runs, sparking off wild celebrations.
An elated Kamande attributed the win to discipline in the wicket by the batsmen, saying: “We are surprised with the large margin but ultimately the boys held their own. Our batting won it for us, so here we come World Cup.”