Ngoche siblings face off as Lions duel with Swamibapa

Battered and bruised, Stray Lions Cricket Club ‘A’ and Swamibapa Sports Club ‘A’ will converge at Peponi School on Sunday to determine who licked the wounds of defeat better following heavy maiden season defeats to Sir Ali Muslim Club ‘A’ and Ngara Sports Club ‘A’. This, with the 2021 Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association 50 – over League entering its seventh round of matches in the Super League division.

Stray Lions’ loss knocked them off the top to slot in second with 20 points from 6 matches while Swamibapa tie in third with Sir Ali at 16 points, albeit a game in hand.

The match will feature the three Ngoche brothers who are at the top of their game in a show of pride for a family that plays very competitive cricket. Shem and James sandwich Ngara’s Vraj Patel at the top of the bowling honours with 19 and 15 wickets respectively while Nehemiah has been showing his handiness with the bat in the middle. Shem also leads the hosts’ batting records with 178 runs from 6 innings.

For perspective, spoke to Kenya Ladies Cricket team skipper Margaret Ngoche, who rues the fact that she wouldn’t be able to watch the match come Sunday. “My brothers are fierce competitors and it’s always a treat to watch them play against each other. They push each other the most to see who will come out with the bragging rights and this, like all their past matches will be an interesting one to watch. The fact that they have been training together lately will make it an even better treat. It will be amazing to see Shem and James bowl on the Peponi wicket that has displayed a lot of turn so far,”

Stray Lions have been bowled out in two consecutive matches in a poor batting show that they wish to change quickly. Zimbabwean wicket keeper batsman Gary Chirimuuta reckons they were a bit impatient in their last two innings. “We lost too many wickets in intervals with no big partnerships in both innings. We are ready to take on Stray Lions and we realize the stakes since they also suffered their first defeat last week. We just need to keep a cool head and do the basics.”

With Praveen Mogasati, Chirimuuta and Krishna Katukala looking solid with the bat, it will be up to the explosive opener Alex Obanda to show his former teammates that he still has what it takes.

Shem’s bowling will need no introduction with his skipper Hiren Varaiya backing him up in the wickets column alongside Sri Lankan Charith Jayampathi and the young duo of David Mutua and Gerald Mwendwa.

Swamibapa’s day of reckoning finally came when they bowed to Ngara with a further weakened batting order in the absence of former Kenya international wicket keeper batsman Morris Ouma. For the first time Swamibapa could not take ten wickets, feeling the effects of missing out on the services of on – form spinner, Jignesh Hirani.

Needless to say, Swamis need to step up their batting that has looked a handicap job for skipper Rushab Patel. Ouma seems to be stepping up for the top order but it is Nehemiah Ngoche who has shown consistency so far with a 58% average from five matches.

Perhaps, their main concern in bowling remains the fact that their pace bowlers are yet to find a rhythm. The season has generally had spinners dominating the track but Swamibapa has the lowest wicket tally with regards to pace bowling. The lead pace pair of Peter Koech and Nehemiah have taken only 8 wickets combined from five innings with 6 and 2 respectively.

Peter Koech of Swamibapa Sports Club bowls in their match against Ruaraka Sports Club in the ongoing NPCA League.

In comparison, their reliable spinning trio has amassed 35 wickets; James Ngoche leading the pack with 15 wickets, Jignesh Hirani 11 and Jadavji Bhimji unusually subdued with 9 wickets.

Koech admits that his rhythm has not been at its best since he transferred from Nairobi Gymkhana to Swamibapa. “I admit that I haven’t been up to scratch but I’m getting more training in at the moment to try and get back on track with noticeable improvements so far. I have always backed my pace and being the team’s strike bowler, I realize that it’s time for a change in my game plan as we travel to Peponi School where spinners have been dominant. Our pace has not adapted well to the prevailing conditions and it’s about time we changed that.”

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