Ask a Warwickshire supporter to name a spinner who pretty much bowled the Bears to a T20 Finals Day and you’d probably hear the reply ‘Jeetan Patel.’
In 2014, off-spinner Patel’s 25 wickets at 12.96 runs apiece underpinned the Bears’ progress to Finals Day and ultimately the trophy on an unforgettable evening at Edgbaston.
But there is another answer to that question.
When the Bears reached the very first T20 Finals day in 2003, they were propelled there by a leg-spinner who took ten wickets (in a much shorter group stage) at 17.70 apiece, including what remains the second-best T20 haul for the Bears: five for 24.
That man? Collins Obuya
My time at Warwickshire was one of the best moments of my career. I vividly remember my first day when I walked in and looked at the wall of fame in the pavilion at Edgbaston and wished that my name would join the long list.Collins Obuya
Obuya’s presence at Edgbaston, for just two thirds of a season in 2003, was fleeting but fascinating. Warwickshire took a punt on him after he took 13 wickets, including a five-for against Sri Lanka, for Kenya in the 2003 World Cup.
It was quite a punt. At just 21, he was an unknown quantity coming into a world which was, for him, full of unknown quantities. And, like most long-shots, it didn’t really pay off. After making his debut against Cardiff UCCE at Abergavenny, Obuya played just two championship matches before a knee injury forced him home early.
But before returning to Africa he featured in that T20 Finals Day at Trent Bridge, having played a big role in getting the Bears there. Obuya was never to return to county cricket but has remained deeply involved in the sport and, now aged 36 and with 104 ODIs for Kenya under his belt, he runs a cricket academy with his two brothers – and still reflects upon his brief stay at Edgbaston with great affection and pride.
“My time at Warwickshire was one of the best moments of my career,” he said. “I vividly remember my first day when I walked in and looked at the wall of fame in the pavilion at Edgbaston and wished that my name would join the long list.
“The offer from Warwickshire came as a great surprise. After Kenya’s exploits in the 2003 World Cup, I was at home resting when I received a call from Warwickshire operations manager Keith Cook. He said they would be glad to have me over and I was so happy because I had always wanted to play in England and my dream had come true.
“At first, coming to Birmingham was a bit of a culture shock. I was used to being on cricket tours and having my team-mates around but now I was having to settle alone with totally new people. I couldn’t believe I was going to stay away from home for that long!
“I had never experienced a cold summer like the one that greeted me at the airport but the people at Warwickshire were very friendly and welcoming. The captain Michael Powell and other team-mates opened their doors to me and we shared hearty meals that made me feel at home.”
Obuya landed in a Warwickshire squad having a moderate season and in transition during Powell’s last year as captain and John Inverarity’s first as director of coaching. He started with 23.3-7-53-1 against the Cardiff students in Abergavenny and then had little impact in the championship. On his championship debut at home to Nottinghamshire he dismissed Kevin Pietersen, though not before the batsman had scored 221. Obuya’s three championship wickets cost 60 runs apiece but he was an important member of the T20 side, peaking with his five for 24 against Glamorgan at Edgbaston.
“It was the first time I had played T20 and I knew I had to learn quickly and adjust to the short version of the game,” he recalls. “I was thirsty to perform and conditions favoured my kind of game in that runs were flowing and wickets were falling.
I really enjoyed playing at Edgbaston because the crowd knew how to get us fired up. Of course home games were special because you felt the need to rise up for the fansCollins Obuya
“I really enjoyed playing at Edgbaston because the crowd knew how to get us fired up. Of course home games were special because you felt the need to rise up for the fans. It would have been great to lift the trophy in the final at Trent Bridge but unfortunately we didn’t post much of a score against Surrey and they took the day.
“I never got to play many first-class games but in the few I did I play I learned a lot. It was unfortunate that my first shot at county cricket did not end well. I was gutted that I had to leave because of the knee injury because I wished I could play through the season. I hoped to return, but unfortunately it never happened.
“I stay in touched with Michael Powell, Ian Bell, Neil Carter and Dougie Brown and a few other guys but as time passed we lost touch, as you do. But it would be lovely to catch up with them and maybe play an oldies game!”
Obuya’s time at Warwickshire was soon over but ahead of him lay a long and excellent life in cricket which is still very active in the form of the family cricket academy.
“My brothers (Kennedy and David) and I run the Obuya Cricket Academy where we give back to the community what cricket has given to us,” he said. “We support children from less fortunate backgrounds to help them learn and play the sport. We hold an annual tournament which this year brought together over 400 kids. I never got to train as doctor, as I had planned, as cricket consumed me whole! I enjoy spending time with my family and I coach my son and hope he can follow in my footsteps.
“I am also still playing for Kenya. I very fondly remember the 2003 World Cup and the 2011 World Cup where I scored 98 not out against Australia. I have had some good moments in cricket and cherish each one of them.”