History of Cricket in Kenya


Cricket in Kenya has had to pass through its pioneering stages. The game was first played at Mombasa in 1896 and Cricket in the country hit the international trail in 1951, when inter-territorial matches started between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

The 50’s were particularly an important period in the development of sport as it saw the formation of the national body and the umpires association to help run the game in a more structured manner.

In 1966, Kenya become a member of the East African Cricket Conference (E.A.C.C.) and participated in its annual Quadrangular tournament which included the three East African countries and Zambia. The tournament played in each respective country by rotation saw Kenya winning nine of the 15 competitions between 1960 and 1980.

This fixture and E.A.C.C.’s good standing with I.C.C. brought recognition when in 1975 East Africa took part in the first World Cup in England. Kenya provided seven of the 14 players for the team and the manager.

Considering Kenya dominated the East African cricket to a great extent, it was felt that Kenya should join the International Cricket Conference (now International Cricket Council) in its own right and in 1981 Kenya broke away from E.A.C.C. and were the same year accepted as a member of I.C.C. Having taken part in the 1979 I.C.C. trophy as part of East Africa, Kenya in 1982, 1986 and 1990 took part in their own right, reaching the semi-final in 1990, their best then ever.

It was during this period that indigenous Kenyan Cricketers started to emerge on the scene and top level cricket was now being played on Turf Wickets.

In February, 1994 Kenya hosted the 5th I.C.C. trophy in Nairobi, 20 Associate member countries participated and Kenya did well to reach the final, finishing runner-up to U.A.E and in doing so qualified for the 1996 World Cup along with U.A.E. and third placed Holland. A memorable win over two-time World Champions West Indies in the World Cup at Pune, India will live long in the hearts of cricket lovers and served as a reminder of the progress Kenya had been making.

Kenya participated in yet another I.C.C. trophy in Malaysia in 1997 and finished second to Bangladesh in an entertaining final and for their dominance they earned themselves the ODI status and an automatic qualification to future World Cups. The country was to see a lot of international cricket as a result of the ODI status, playing against Test nations in the lead to the 1999 World Cup where it failed to shine after her exploits in 1996.

But it was not until 2003 in South Africa, that Kenya made the world to stand and take notice, when it become the first and the only ever associate nation to reach the semi-finals of the Cricket World Cup beating test nations Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka the 1996 World Cup Champions in the process.

Kenyan cricket was to go through a metamorphosis losing key players through retirement and a change of guard at the helm in the run-up to the 2007 World Cup in West Indies where it only managed a group stage finish after a breathtaking performance in South Africa four years earlier and were to be asked to go through the qualifying stages to earn a place in the 2011 World Cup.

In 2004, I.C.C. was to launch a premier first class tournament, the I.C.C. Intercontinental Cup designed around a two-group three-day format. The event has 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.

The Intercontinental Cup has quickly grown in stature and profile since its inception four years ago and is now an integral part of the Associate Members’ cricket schedule. Scotland won the first ICC Intercontinental Cup in 2004, beating Canada in the final, while Ireland has been victorious in three events since then, beating Kenya in the 2005 decider, Canada in the 2006-07 event and Namibia in the 2008-09 edition.

I.C.C. was to launch another event, the pinnacle of Associate and Affiliate nations, the World Cricket League. The Division one event involving the top six associate nations by ranking held in Nairobi in 2007 included Bermuda, Canada, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and hosts Kenya all whom were set to compete at the 2007 World Cup. Kenya won the event beating Scotland in the final after losing to them in group stages of the tournament and in the process earning a place at the inaugural Twenty20 Cricket World Cup.   

Kenya began their campaign to qualify for the ICC World Cup Qualifying event in South Africa on a sour note losing to the Netherlands by 7 wickets and were to revive themselves in by winning all their remaining group matches to take top honors heading into the crucial Super Eight stage and after a disappointing loss to Canada they overcame a stubborn Scotland and then went down to Namibia but beat eventual winners Ireland to secure a top four finish and with it the Crucial 2011 World Cup place.

The Kenya Under-15 won the inaugural East African tournament in the Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania in 2001 while the Under-17 team was runners up in the 2003 in an East African tournament in Kampala, Uganda. The Under-19 made the semis in Windhoek, Namibia the same year in the ICC East Asia Pacific/Africa U/19 World Cup Qualifiers, before repeating the same feat in 2005, but they eventually made the Africa Region ICC U/19 Qualifiers final but were denied a World Cup spot by Namibia in South Africa when only one team qualified as opposed to the previous event when two teams went through. The Under-19 last event was the qualifiers in Zambia where they did not fair well.