Scots travel to Kenya with a big challenge ahead of them
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Off-spinning all-rounder Majid Haq has good memories of the Gymkhana ground in Nairobi. He was part of the Scotland team that reached the final of the inaugural Pepsi ICC World Cricket League (WCL) Division 1 there in 2007 and although the Scots lost to Kenya in that decider, Majid made a name for himself throughout that week and, in an earlier group stage match against the eventual winner, he was on top form taking 3-26 with the ball and hitting 71 with the bat.
Now he's back and although it's a very different mindset playing the four-day ICC Intercontinental Cup rather than the 50-over format of the WCL, the 26-year-old will be drawing on his positive experiences as Scotland looks for a result against a strong Kenya side.
Of course, his role in the team is now very different to what it was three years ago. Then, he was a relative newcomer in a side filled with experience but with retirements, injuries and other commitments making some players unavailable, Majid is one of the old heads these days.
"I've been training hard so now it's time to do the business on the pitch," said the man from Paisley. "I'm one of the more senior players at 26 so I want to make sure I step up and lead from the front with a strong performance."
As one of Scotland's new crop of full-time players, there is a confidence that comes with being handed that sort of opportunity. However, there is also pressure.
"Obviously, as a full-time player the pressure comes with it. But I just need to focus on what I do and make sure I do it well. It's fantastic to be playing full-time cricket and I'm determined to repay the faith that has been shown in me," said Majid, adding that he hoped it would be a good track so Scotland can win the toss and have a bat.
The visitors will be without some of their proven performers, such as Neil McCallum, Fraser Watts and Ryan Watson but Durham's Kyle Coetzer makes a welcome appearance, as does Qasim Sheikh, who already has an ICC Intercontinental Cup century (and a 92 not out) to his name.
Other full-timers Dewald Nel and Gordon Goudie will spearhead the Scotland attack while talented wicketkeeper Simon Smith is fast cementing his place in the side after the retirement last year of veteran gloveman Colin Smith.
Scotland won this competition in 2004 and has begun the 2009-10 version well, beating Canada outright in Aberdeen last July and then drawing with defending champion Ireland at the same venue in August. Despite a number of challenges facing his team, skipper Gordon Drummond is confident he has the right personnel to do the job in the historic and picturesque ground in Nairobi.
"We'll be going out there to try and get a win against the Kenyans," he said. "We know they'll be tough. We'll be playing in different conditions than we're used to and we have a few players who haven't played in Kenya before. But we're confident and I am backing the players to deliver on the pitch."
Kenya has also started the tournament reasonably well, drawing with the Irish and beating Canada comprehensively in King City, Ontario to sit near the top of the log. A defeat to Zimbabwe XI at Kwekwe is the only major blemish so far and victory over Drummond's men this week would certainly put its campaign back on track.
Maurice Ouma will lead the side and take the ?keeper's gloves although he will probably relinquish the opening berth with Seren Waters, Rakep Patel and David Obuya all named in the squad. At 38 Steve Tikolo is still a vital part of Kenya's middle order and his nagging off-spinners will also come into the picture at some stage.
The Kenya team is not short on talent. Alex Obanda, Hiren Varaiya, Thomas Odoyo and Jimmy Kamande are all capable of match-winning performances and, on home soil, it will be difficult to beat.
Kenya (squad): Maurice Ouma (captain), Jimmy Kamande, Alfred Luseno, James Ngoche, Shem Obado, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, David Obuya, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, Rakep Patel, Steve Tikolo, Hiren Varaiya, Seren Waters, Thomas Odoyo.
Scotland (squad): Gordon Drummond (captain), Dougie Lockhart, Qasim Sheikh, Kyle Coetzer, Ewan Chalmers, Richie Berrington, Stewart Chalmers, Majid Haq, Ross Lyons, Gordon Goudie, Simon Smith, Dewald Nel, Matthew Parker.
Umpires: Russell Tiffin and Subhash Modi
Match referee: Dev Govindjee (remote)
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More details about the ICC Intercontinental Cup, including the latest league table, can be found at http://www.icc-cricket.com/events_and_awards/intercontinental_cup/index.php
The ICC Intercontinental Cup has quickly grown in stature and profile since its inception five years ago and now the ICC's premier first-class tournament is an integral part of the Associate Members' cricket schedule.
Having previously been designed around a four-group, three-day format and later a two-group format, the event then evolved into an eight-team, round-robin and truly global tournament featuring four-day cricket which gives those teams who do not play Test cricket the chance to experience the longer form of the game.
This year's format will include seven teams (Afghanistan, Canada, Ireland, Kenya, the Netherlands, Scotland and Zimbabwe XI) while a new competition, the ICC Intercontinental Shield will involve four teams below that, namely Bermuda, Namibia, Uganda and the United Arab Emirates.
Scotland won the first ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004, beating Canada in the final, while Ireland has been victorious in all three events since then, beating Kenya in the 2005 decider, Canada in the 2006-07 event and Namibia in 2007-08.
For more information go to: www.icc-cricket.com