The Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) League spices up this weekend with red hot Sir Ali Muslim Club ‘A’ hosting Swamibapa Sports Club ‘A’ in the 50 – over competition.
Swamibapa face a conundrum if they are to miss the services of skipper Rushab Patel, pacemen Nehemiah Ngoche and Peter Koech alongside dependable spinner James Ngoche who have also been invited to camp.
However, even with a full squad, their greatest undoing remains a considerably weakened batting order after an exodus of players in the run up to the season. For perspective, in their last couple of matches, they were bowled out for 116 and 132 against Ngara Sports Club ‘A’ and Stray Lions Cricket Club ‘A’, losing both matches by 4 wickets, the worser performance being in the absence of Morris Ouma but Patel did not fire, either. The two have chipped in in all the matches that they have won so far, each recording two half centuries each so far.
Ouma recognises the fact their batting is heavily reliant on his performance alongside that of his successor. “I know that our batting has suffered especially in the last couple of matches. The main problem is that we have a thin line – up that relies on me and Rushab and if we don’t come good, then we are in trouble. The upside is that we have reliable talent in our side. Prasang Hirani is a natural and he just got his 100 today playing age group cricket and that is very encouraging. Harendra Kerai is also a good prospect and Jignesh Hirani is now a seasoned campaigner.”
Ouma hopes that the players who have been selected will show up on Sunday and play for their Clubs. “It doesn’t make sense for the Super League to go on while missing out on 30 of the best players. It is a very competitive League and the results will tell you that. It would do them much better to get proper match practice in the League as they are also going to Uganda to play One Day Cricket. Being professional players, I believe they will toe the line as far as Covid protocols are concerned as we have been upholding the same in the League,” quipped Morris.
Further exacerbating their batting issues is the fact that the pair of their speedsters (Koech and Nehemiah) are yet to bag the wickets as they would expect. As such, the load would still be on their spinners, especially James, Jignesh and Jadavji Bhimji to lift them once again.
Sir Ali are riding on the back of three wins on the trot, having beaten beat Obuya Cricket Academy, Stray Lions Cricket Club ‘A’ and Sikh Union Sports Club ‘A.’ The park road side seems to be undergoing a renaissance since suffering a humiliating 8 – wicket defeat away to Kanbis Sports Club ‘A’ while debuting two of their professional players – Siddarth Mhatre and Sandip Adole.
Since scoring 21 and 5 in that match, Mhatre and Adole now have 149 and 124 runs from just 4 innings, respectively, ensconcing Zahid Abbas with 134 runs from six. Only skipper Gurdeep Singh is above them with 191 runs from his six entries.
With the exit of a non – performing George Kamangu and Joseph Owino yet to spark despite getting starts, Sir Ali will be heavily dependent on the two overseas players in the top order where they have had changes in their combinations every couple of matches with no significant results on one end.
On the contrary, their middle – lower order has made proper returns in the last couple of matches courtesy of Eugene Maneno standing out. His contributions of 33* and 36* albeit not mindboggling for numbers, have contributed to partnerships, first with Tarandeep Singh and then with his skipper in the lower order that have pushed their totals.
Abbas has been lull since scoring 51 and 73* against Nairobi Gymkhana ‘A’ and Ngara Sports Club ‘A’ in the first month of the competition. He now has an opportunity to fail at his own game this weekend, albeit admist the uncertainty surrounding the availability of players called to the senior team camp to prepare for the series’ against Uganda next month. Either way, it remains up to Tony Ochieng’ to fill very big boots but fortunately so as his luck seems to be turning if the last couple of matches are anything to go by.
Sir Ali are lucky that Abdul Rehman has finally laced up and is producing the wickets, although lacking with the bat, picking a five – fer against Sikh Union last weekend to bring his tally to 12. Irfan Ellahi continues to talk with the ball, extending the four he picked against Ngara Sports Club to a five – fer that brought his wicket tally to 15. He has also proven to be handy with the bat and will have to come good for Sir Ali if the unavoidable happens.
Sir Ali may have to contend with the absence of Gurdeep Singh, Eugene Maneno and Zahid Abbas who have been called up to the residential camp.