Botha does the trick for Ireland cricketers
It was never easy, it was always tense but, with 25 minutes to spare, Ireland deservedly reached their third successive Intercontinental Cup final. They will play Namibia in the five-day decider, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, starting on October 30.
The margin of an innings and 65 runs may sound emphatic - and it was - but it was a race against the clock for William Porterfield’s side on the final day which they started needing eight wickets, in a minimum of 96 overs, to win the match. A draw would have been enough for Kenya.
Three wickets fell in the first 50 minutes, putting the holders firmly in the driving seat but was to be another two and a quarter hours before Ireland made their next breakthrough.
It proved to the only wicket of a frustrating middle session and at tea Ireland still required four wickets.
As Porterfield said after the match: “We knew the game was still there to be won. There was no need to panic and if we bowled 32 quality overs, put the pressure on them, put the ball in the right areas we knew could win it.”
His ace in the pack was Andre Botha. Remarkably, Ireland’s leading all-rounder had not bowled a ball in two days but with less than 15 minutes until the start of the final hour of the match, and Kenya still just seven20wickets down, Botha finally got the call.
With his fifth ball, he had Hiren Varaiya, the night-watchmen who kept out 78 balls in the first innings, leg before for four and three overs later he took Ireland’s ninth wicket, bowling No 10 Lameck Onyango who offered no stroke.
Suddenly, Ireland were back in the driving seat, when it mattered, and Regan West, in his 74th over of the match, won another leg before decision to end the resistance of last man Peter Ongondo.
It was no more than West (seven wickets) in only his third Ireland match, and his team-mates merited.
To take 20 wickets in two days, on this pitch, after their batsman had scored 578 for four in the first five sessions, was a herculean effort.
Trent Johnston, who had taken the first two wickets on Monday evening, doubled his tally in the first 12 overs of the day, stooping low to hold a superb return catch to dismiss the Kenya captain, Steve Tikolo, and then removed the 18 year old opener Siren Waters, a Surrey contracted player, for 75.
With West also getting in on the act to have Maurice Ouma caught at short leg, Ireland had high hopes of an early finish.
However, Rakeb Patel batted 40 overs for 32 runs, giving two difficult chances to short-leg and Thomas Odoyo, more surprisingly, held out for 60 overs at almost exactly a run a ball. This was the same Odoyo who had scored 61 from 36 balls to win last year’s World League match between the teams in Kenya.
For almost four hours it looked as if he would defy Ireland again but West’s perseverance was rewarded and Botha took the catch in the slips.
l Peter Moores insists England’s players will be "playing for the badge" and not just for financial gain when they take part in the Stanford Super Series this month.
England will play a West Indies select XI in just under three weeks time in Antigua.
The winner of that match will take home US dollars 20million (approximately £11.5million) to share between the players and coaching staff.
Last week, England batsman Alastair Cook said the main reason behind the match was money, a claim rejected by Moores.
"It’s an international game to be played by England. Alastair knows that and we’ll be very proud to go out there and play for England,” said Moores.
Ireland First Innings 578-4 dec (K O’Brien 171 not out, N O’Brien 135, A Botha 109, A White 92, A Cusack 42)
Kenya First Innings 186 ( S Tikolo 44, T Odoyo 32, M Ouma 22; K McCallan 4-52, R West 4-67)
Kenya Second Innings
S Waters C Porterfield b Johnston 75
S Tikolo c and b Johnston 47
M Ouma c Cusack b West 1
R Patel c N O’Brien b Rankin 32
T Odoyo c Botha b West 61
J Kamande not out 42
H Varaiya lbw b Botha 4
L Onyango b Botha 0
P Ongondo lbw b West 4
Extras (14b 10lb 2w 5nb) 31
Total (135.4 overs) 327
Ireland won by an innings and 65 runs.