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SPORTS

Cricket team to play two build-up matches ahead of qualifiers

CRICKET By By OSCAR PILIPILI | December 20th 2013

By OSCAR PILIPILI

KENYA: The national cricket team will play two build-up matches ahead of the 2015 ICC World Cup Qualifiers scheduled to take place in New Zealand between January 13 and February 1, 2014.

The team takes on Hong Kong in their first build-up match to be played at Christchurch on January 10 then Nepal the next day at the same venue, two days before they start their World Cup Qualifiers campaign.

Interim coach/player Steve Tikolo said fixtures are important as they will help the team familiarise with the New Zealand climate.

“The build-up matches will help us to acclimatise to weather conditions in New Zealand that are very different from Dubai and Kenya,” he said.

“Playing the two teams (Hong Kong and Nepal) will also help us know their approach to the game just in case we meet in the Super Six Stage.” Besides, the matches would also offer Tikolo a chance to test his players at competitive level before the big tournament.

Kenya is in Pool “B” with Papua New Guinea, Namibia, Uganda and Netherlands.

Group A consists of United Arab Emirates, Scotland, Canada, Hong Kong and Nepal. The top three finishers in each group advance to the Super Six Stage. Super Six finalists qualify for the 2015 World Cup to be hosted by New Zealand and Australia.

According to the qualifiers fixtures released by International Cricket Council, Kenya opens its campaign with a match against Papua New Guinea at New Plymouth on January 13.

Tikolo’s charges would then take on Namibia in their second fixture programmed for January 17 before engaging neighbours Uganda two days later. Kenya play their final group match against Netherlands on January 23.

Familiar opponents

About his expectations in the group stage, Tikolo said: “We’ve played all these teams before and we know their strong and weak points. We met Papua New Guinea at the recent Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers in Dubai and we’ve an idea of how they approach the game,” he said.

Papua New Guinea (177-4) beat Kenya (175-6) by four wickets during the match played November 15.

“Kenya and the Netherlands meet regularly especially in the World Cricket League and so the sides are not new to each other,” he added.

The Kenyan team is training at Ruaraka Sport Club in Nairobi under Tikolo and assistant coach/player Thomas Odoyo.

Meanwhile, Christchurch’s journey to host top-level cricket will take a significant step early next year when the Hagley Oval hosts its first international match during the Qualifiers.

Christchurch has not hosted a major event since the devastating earthquake in February 2011.

Severe damage was caused to the AMI Stadium and planning permission has now been granted for a new international cricket venue at Hagley Oval.                                  

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