Slow pitch threatens to deny Irish victory in Nairobi

IRELAND will fully deserve a celebratory drink in Nairobi tonight if they can somehow beat both Kenya and a heartbreaker of a pitch to reach the InterContinental Cup final.

Ireland coach Phil Simmons has introduced an alcohol ban for players during matches, but if ever there was a surface to turn a bowler to drink it is this one at the Gymkhana Club.

A mighty effort in the first two sessions saw Ireland dismiss their opponents for 186 and ask them to follow on nearly 400 in arrears — but steady batting in the final session from Steve Tikolo and Sean Waters left the national side still eight wickets away from victory.

Three bowlers stood up to be counted. Spinners Regan West and Kyle McCallan took four wickets each in the first innings, and Trent Johnston winkled out the only two wickets to fall second time around in a testing seven overs.

West bowls his left-armers at close to medium pace and when he found the right length he caused all the batsmen problems, turning the odd one from outside leg past off, and removing Tikolo after an hour of the morning to a fine edge.

McCallan followed up with two wickets in an over, finally ending the two-hour resistance of nightwatchman Hiren Varaiya with a bat-pad dolly and then diving to accept a return catch from Kennedy Obuya four balls later.

Varaiya, who had shown how to prop forward and survive on the slow surface, would have been dismayed by the recklessness of Obuya again in the second innings when he was caught hooking Johnston to long leg.

West took two wickets in three balls after lunch, the first thanks to a sharp reaction clutch by Alex Cusack at short leg, the second by the more direct route of clattering the castle.

Another rash shot from Thomas Odoyo was held at long on to give West his fourth wicket and McCallan ended to innings half an hour before tea when last man Peter Ongondo also attempted the aerial route. Johnston showed after tea that persistence and guile can earn a seam bowler wickets but despite tempting Obuya to hook and having Alex Obanda lbw, the big man will regret a no-ball from which Sean Waters was ‘caught’ behind.

Waters and Tikolo added 70 and, resuming on 146 for two, if the third wicket pair can survive the first hour this morning then Ireland may yet be denied and will drown their sorrows. Either way, it will be thirsty work.

At Gymkhana Club, Nairobi (third day of four): IRELAND 578-4dec (N O’ Brien 135, A Botha 109, K O’Brien 171no, A White 92no, A Cusack 42) lead KENYA 186 (K McCallan 4-52, R West 4-67) and 146-2 by 246 runs.

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