Kenya

A brief history of Kenyan cricket

Martin Williamson

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Steve Tikolo leads the Kenyan side on a lap of honour after their World Cup semi-final defeat in 2003 © Getty Images
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Cricket was brought to Kenya by colonial settlers and was first played in Mombasa from where it spread inland. The first match of any consequence took place in 1899, and in 1910 a three-day fixture between Officials and Settlers started, remaining the highlight of the domestic calendar until 1964, along with Europeans v Asians which began in 1933.

The first international took place in 1951 when Kenya played Tanganyika (captained by C. de L. Innis, the West Indian representative) and in 1952 a Natal team visited, Russell Endean scoring a century. In 1953 the Kenyan Cricket Association was formed, the colony's first inter-racial organisation, although largely dominated by the Asian community.

The MCC, who had declined an invitation to tour in 1930, finally visited in 1957-58 under former England captain Freddie Brown and again in 1963. The South African non-European Team touring East Africa in 1958 played a number of matches in Kenya. South Africa, whose captain, B. L. d'Oliveira, was pre-eminent, won them all. At this time most wickets were mats of jute rather than coconut-fibre to reduce the bounce above concrete or impacted gravel.

A number of Kenyans took part in the 1975 World Cup as part of the East Africa side, and that unit again appeared in the inaugural 1979 ICC Trophy, but by 1982 Kenya were playing under their own flag. As local standards improved, so did that national side, and in 1996 they took part in the World Cup where they achieved a remarkable result in beating West Indies. In 1997 they reached the ICC Trophy final, and as more ODIs started to be played both in and by Kenya, they began to emerge as many people's tip to be the next Test nation after Bangladesh and the ICC seemed to encourage this by making Kenya a ODI member - the only one - which sat between Full member and Associate status.

Nairobi hosted the 2000 Champions Trophy, and in 2003 Kenya co-hosted the World Cup, overturning the form book by reaching the semi-finals. But in their finest hour, things were already on the slide. Bitter disputes between board and players led to a series of strikes, but more cripplingly, the KCA found itself battling most of the country's stakeholders. By the end of the dispute in 2005, Kenyan cricket was in the doldrums, was sponsorless, and was effectively in international isolation. Later in the year it was stripped of its ODI status by the ICC.

In 2006 the KCA was replaced by Cricket Kenya and the rebuilding process began.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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