Kenya Under-19 cricket team coach Jimmy Kamande believes their chances of emerging as a top associate at the 2018 edition of the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup are as good as any of the 16 teams that have converged in New Zealand.The tournament bowls off today where the Kenyan team, making their maiden appearance at the event after 16 years, are in placed in a tough Group ‘A’ alongside champions at the previous two editions West Indies (2016) and South Africa (2014) as well as hosts New Zealand.Kamande and his charges were supposed to wind up their preparations on Thursday with a warm up match against India but the game was abandoned without a ball bowled because of bad weather.Kenya had earlier lost by eight wickets to Canada in their first warm up match on Tuesday.But despite that, Kamande is still looking to build on the extensive preparations they have had ahead of the tournament with the hope of finishing as the top associate. Kamande’s side have been in Australia for a two weeks and they are confident they have done well to acclimatise to the erratic weather conditions.“We are ready to go. It has been a long wait but it’s finally here. The boys have worked hard and are ready to get to our target. Even though we have come to be competitive, we also have our top goal which is to finish as the top associate,” Kamande said.Kamande said they are not losing sleep because of the high level competition they expect from group favourites who have sounded warning shots with big wins in their practice games this week. By finishing as the top associate, Kenya will not have to go through the qualifiers again. Kenya has failed to go past the qualifiers since 2002 when they last played at the event, in New Zealand.Kenya had taken part in the three editions of the event before being subjected to the qualifiers after poor show.Kenya open their campaign against South Africa tomorrow before taking on the hosts on Wednesday. They will wrap up the group assignments against defending champions West Indies on January 20. At the 1998 World Cup in South Africa, Kenya defeated only Scotland in the group stage. In the plate competition, they won two more games against Ireland and Papua New Guinea to finish 11th overall.At the 2000 World Cup in Sri Lanka, Kenya finished last in their group. They lost to Pakistan and newcomers Nepal while their match against South Africa was abandoned.In 2002 in New Zealand, Kenya again finished last in their group. The opening match against Australia was one of the most shameful days in Kenya’s cricket history. Australia racked up 480/6 from their 50 overs, the highest total in World Cup history. Kenya were dismissed for 50 runs, to lose by a whopping 430 runs, another shameful record.While Kenya’s participation at the cricket team will ensure that local cricket fans follow on what is happening at the international scene, The Nairobi Provincial Cricket Association (NPCA) Twenty20 championship is set to bowl off tomorrow across the city, offering more spice to the 2018 ICC Under19 World Cup where Kenya will be making a historical comeback in Australia today.The T20 tournament, which acts as the season-ender for the NPCA, will see all the Super League teams battle for the shorter version honours in the next eight weeks.As the actions bowls off, fans will be asking themselves a number of questions, including whether Swamibapa can defend their third title, if Stray Lions can reclaim their and whether Kanbis will lay their hand on another major title in two years?The three teams have had a good run in the last three years in all the formats of the games organized by NPCA and with that, they will get into the tournament as favourites once again. They are expected to parade all their top players as they seek to open their account on a positive note.Swamibapa host Ruaraka, who are still coming to terms with the departure of their top players who helped them put on a much-improved show in the 50 overs league.The hosts, however, will not have such fears since almost all their players are available for selection in the match to be played at Nairobi Jafferys.At Peponi School, 2016 champions Stray Lions will be forced to add on some players to their 50 overs winning team when they welcome Sir Ali. The sides will be without a number of their top professional players and U19 leg spinner Abiskekh Chidambaran.But with a number of seasoned players in their second string team, the home team are unlikely to struggle for players as they face a side that has a bad record against them.At Eastleigh High School, Kanbis will be seeking to continue their good home run against Nairobi Ghymkhana, who have always blown cold or hot in this competition. The other matches will see Sikh Union host Kongonis and Obuya Academy playing away to Cutchi Leva.Champions KCB host Homeboyz in a top of the table clash as the Kenya Cup league resumes from the Christmas and New Year break.The two sides are level on 20 points and their encounter promises to be mouth-watering showdown with both teams keen to lay down a marker early in the season.The bankers have a good record against the Deejays in the last four seasons losing once, 33-24, last season at the Lions’ Den.KCB coach Curtis Olago has made some change from the team that beat Nakuru 27-12 before the break.Martin Owila drops to the bench, to be replaced by Nick Ongeri.Brian Nyikuli will start from the bench meaning Davies Chenge starts on the blindside and Peter Waitere on the openside. Waitere started at eight in Nakuru but Kenya Sevens captain Andrew Amonde is available to start.Ahmed Shaban will start at fly-half in place of Essau Otieno while Brian Omondi comes in for Ken Moseti.Jacob Ojee and Arthur Ochieng are the wingers with Darwin Mukidza starting at fullback. Mclanhan Sikuku, Marlin Mukolwe, Stafford Abeka, George Gichure and Griffin Musila join Owila and Nyikuli on the bench.Homeboyz have also made several changes to their starting XV. Paul Murunga will start with Dalmus Chituyi, Charles Otieno and Kenyan international Steve Otieno at the back row.In the backs, Haroun Lubisia starts at flyhalf with Mohammed Omollo starting at scrumhalf. Alvin Otieno starts at inside centre after recovering from injury to partner Kevin Ochami at outside centre with Bush Mwale being handed his debut on the wing.Both coaches expect a competitive match and Olago believes this is the bankers’ biggest match of the season so far. “It’s still early in the season but this will be our toughest match so far. We know what Homeboyz can do and we must be at our best,” said Olago. The days other top fixture will be at the Kakamega showground where third-placed Kabras host fourth-placed Quins. Other fixtures of the day will see fifth-placed Impala Saracens host Resolution Kisii RFC at Impala Club while Mwamba will be chasing their first win of the season when they host Mombasa RFC at Railway Club. Nondies face Strathmore Leos as Nakuru entertain Blak Blad.In his typical style of grooming footballers with budding talent, Mathare United coach Francis Kimanzi has described his latest prospect, Klinsmann Omulanga, as a bright prospect who is hungry to succeed. “He is a young boy who is showing a lot of promise and we hope that we can guide him at this crucial stage of his development,” Kimanzi remarked about the son of former international Wycliffe Anyang’u. Omulanga is eager to get going after joining the club on a one-year loan deal from Liberty Academy.He is set to provide more options in attack beyond the trio of Chris Ochieng’ and Elijah Mwanzia as well as the experienced Clifford Alwanga, who was recently snapped up from Tusker.The 21 year old is elated at graduating from the third tier, the National Division One League, to the top tier adding that he is ready to fight for a place in the first team.“This is a new experience for me and I am happy that I am playing at this level. It is tough to compete here and it requires a lot of determination and hard work,” said Omulanga. “I am grateful to coach Jacob Mulee for advising me to join this team because it gives young players an opportunity to learn. I want to work hard and gain experience by playing as many matches at this level. When my opportunity comes I will grab it. I am here to score goals,” he said.It remains to be seen whether he will better his tally of seven goals for Liberty Academy in the 2017 season once he settles in at his new home. World 5,000m champion Hellen Obiri successfully defended her Kenya Defence Forces 10km Cross Country title at the Moi Air Base, Nairobi yesterday.Obiri warded off competition from World Half Marathon record holder Joyciline Jepkosgei to carry the day, timing 33:31.6 to retain the title.In the last four kilometres, the race was left to Laikipia Air Base’s Obiri and Marsabit’s Jepkosgei in the lead. But 28 year-old’s winning kick came almost a kilometre to the tape and her close competitor (Jepkosgei) could not keep up with the speed.Jepkosgei, 24, clocked 33:38.4 and Perine Nenkampi stopped her watch after 33:57.0 minutes for third.Elated with her victory, Obiri said: “The strong field mounted pressure on me, and especially Jepkosgei who ran side-by-side with me. Running under such conditions, I am happy to defend my title. It became apparent to me that I could run away with the title in the last two kilometres. I knew my finishing was stronger than Jepkosgei’s.”However, for Jepkosgei, the race was a build up for the RAK Half Mrathon set for February 9 and hopefully lower her record at the World Half Marathon slated for March 24 in Spain.“My efforts were thwarted time and again in the late four kilometres as Obiri kept on pushing and her kick in the last lap was good,” noted the road specialist, who has opted to skip the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for the World Half Marathon show.The men’s race was tightly contested as Hillary Kering claimed the title in 29:34.3, beating Frankline Ngelel, who timed 29:39.8, to the second place. John Chepkwony sealed the podium positions having clocked 29:48.2. Stephen Arita and Erick Kiptanui closed the top five places with times of 29:49.7 and 29:55.3 respectively.
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