Associates back in action as post-WCQ stupor fades


Maurice Odumbe has been appointed as head coach of Kenya. © Getty

After something of a lull in the wake of the World Cup Qualifier, this week finally brought some on-field competitive international action to the Associates world courtesy the African Western Subregional WT20 Qualifier.

The first of two T20 tournaments this month to be hosted in Lagos, the Subregional qualifier sees hosts Nigeria take on Ghana, Sierra Leone and Gambia in what the sides will hope is the first step in the protracted qualification process of the 2020 World T20 in Australia. The two top sides will progress to the Africa Regional Final, to be held sometime next year at an as-yet undisclosed venue. At the regional final there will be two slots on offer at the 14-team Global Qualifier, from which six teams will qualify for the “first round” of the main tournament.

Nigeria, who have had the benefit of South Africa’s Makahaya Ntini‘s guidance ahead of the tournament, are currently in the driving seat along with Ghana, each recording consecutive convincing wins over Sierra Leone and Gambia. Nigeria’s Ademola Onikoyi has led the way for the hosts, racking up over 100 runs in his first two innings. Meanwhile Sierra Leone’s John Bangura, the officially youngest debutant in an ICC 50-over event when he took the field against Ghana at the WCL Africa Regional Qualifier last year at the reported age of 11 years and 7 months, has yet to repeat the feat in the shorter format, having been left out for the first two games.

With eight matches left to play, the tournament is far from over. And there’s plenty more cricket to come for the four teams. As soon as the WT20 Subregional is done they will be joined in Lagos by Mali and Cameroon for the rejuvenated Africa Cricket Association’s own regional T20 Qualifier, which will run to the end of the month.

At the same time in Kuwait, Asia’s first WT20 Subregional will be underway, with the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, the Maldives and Saudi Arabia joining the hosts of the Middle East Subregional, chasing three available slots in the Asia Final.

In other African news, Namibia’s remarkable run to the final of South Africa’s Sunfoil three-day Cup ended in the disappointment of an innings defeat against KwaZulu Natal at Durban. Michael Erlank and Mishkal Ramsaroop’s 213-run opening partnership for KZ-N setting the platform for a comfortable win.

In happier news, Cricket Kenya’s beleaguered administration appears to be trying to get its house in order. The Independent Interim Committee convened to administer the sport after Sports Minister Rashid Achesa dissolved the board last week has appointed former international Maurice Odumbe as head coach and the national team has resumed training in preparation for the East Africa WT20 Subregional to be held in Rwanda in June. The tournament will be something of a reunion for former Kenya

internationals, with two of Kenya’s opponents being coached by former teammates of Odumbe’s, with Martin Suji currently coaching the hosts and Steve Tikolo in charge of Uganda.

Tikolo has more immediate concerns however, with Uganda about to head to Malaysia for World Cricket League Division 4, which kicks off in Kuala Lumpur at the end of the month. Uganda have had a remarkably full schedule in the past weeks, touring Qatar and India in February and having hosted Saudi Arabia earlier this month, and so will not be short of match practice when they arrive in Malaysia.

Meanwhile their hosts will be high on confidence following a 3-1 series victory for the MCA President’s XI (featuring the majority of the likely national side) over a strong touring Hong Kong A side last week, whilst Jersey have been in the UK, sharing honours with Kent seconds in a warm-up series. Denmark’s preparations likewise continue, with the squad split between training camps in Spain and Pakistan. Vanuatu meanwhile are already in Malaysia, where they will be joined by Bermuda to contest the six team tournament, with two spots on offer for WCL Division 3.

Awaiting them there will be Kenya, Oman, Singapore and the United States, whose administrative rehabilitation continues apace. The ICC and USA Cricket – the new board replacing the now expelled USACA – announced the appointment of a governance committee whose principle task will be providing nominations for the three independent directors to sit on the new board’s ten-strong board of directors.

ICC CEO David Richardson will himself take one place on the four-seat panel, the other three going to experienced sports-administrator and former All-American collegiate basketball player Amy Perko, former Hong Kong under-19 skipper and co-founder of Cricinfo Rohan Chandaran, and former Guyana under-19 captain Keith Aaron.

Back to on-field news, and Nepal’s Dhangadhi Premier League came to a thrilling climax, with Chauraha Dhagandhi scraping home to a penultimate-ball, last-wicket victory over the Kathmandu Goldens in the final. UAE skipper Rohan Mustafa top-scored in the chase with a 20-ball 33, taking his tally in the tournament to 198 runs to go with his nine wickets – enough to bag the man of the tournament award and the now customary motorbike, which he traded in for cash which in turn he duly donated to charity.

Mustafa then proceeded to the airport and managed to get back to Dubai in time to play in a second T20 final the following day, helping Sharjah to victory over Dubai in the inaugural UAE Cricket League final. Two T20 titles in two days – surely a first?

© Cricbuzz

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