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Pakistan crushes Kenya

By Vijay Lokapally

BIRMINGHAM, SEPT 15. Kenya will need to go back to the basics when it analyses its abysmal performance at the Champions Trophy.

The team that made a huge impact by making it to the semifinals of the last World Cup was embarrassingly shoddy at the Edgbaston here, losing to Pakistan without a semblance of a fight.

The rain clouds in the distance must have caused immense concern in the Pakistan dressing room on Wednesday. No play had been possible on Tuesday due to soggy conditions and Inzamam-ul-Haq's team lost no time in wrapping up the opposition with a thoroughly clinical performance.

True, there were no indications of a collapse when Kenya, asked to bat, overcame an early loss and steadied the innings through Kennedy Obuya and Morris Ouma. The seamers were testing the batsmen and Inzamam could not afford any hiccups, what with the threat of rain looming large.

The game was interrupted with Kenya, 64 for one from 20 overs, promising a healthy contest. When they returned, the Kenyans embraced disaster in a shocking display of poor cricketing acumen and slid to a dismal 94, its lowest total against Pakistan.

Poor structure

For a team that complains of lack of competition as the reason for their inconsistency at the international level, this was a poor indication of the cricket structure back home.

The Pakistan spinners, Shahid Afridi and Shoiab Malik, created havoc in the opposition ranks by bowling percentage stuff. The Kenyan approach would have shamed even a club team as the batsmen experienced humiliation at the crease. The mode of dismissals demonstrated an utter lack of discipline.

The mayhem began with Ouma's tame dismissal, caught behind of an innocuous ball. And then Obuya failed to read a faster one from Malik. It was an ideal stage for Steve Tikolo to take charge, play a sterling innings, and justify his criticism of the world body of denying his team quality cricket in the big league. A fine player of spin, he stood dazed as the ball curled past his groping bat and hit the stumps.

When Thomas Odoyo failed to read a googly, the Kenyan camp was in a trance. It got no better when Brijal Patel, despite counselling by Hitesh Modi, lunged more in hope and missed contacting the ball. The innings was in a mess and Modi was stranded. He met the incoming batsman, Ragheb Aga, half way and gave a few tips. All in waste as Aga did not offer the bat!

Inzamam was obviously pleased with his spinners doing an excellent job. He was soon delighted when Malhar Patel put up an act that befitted a novice. On being bowled, he wanted to convey he was not ready for strike. The umpire appropriately ignored the batsman's contention.

When Martin Suji was run out, Modi had no option but to pray for support from the last man but it was not to be. Peter Ongondo was yorked by Afridi, who finished with five wickets, a performance that would put him in the right frame of mind for the upcoming do-or-die match against India on Sunday.

Blistering start

The Pakistan response was understandably flashy with some rapidfire stroke-play by Yasir Hamid and Imran Farhat entertaining their fans. The intention was to get into the rhythm with a big victory to back themselves for the rest of the tournament.

The onus was on the openers to play aggressively and they did not disappoint the captain. Some of the rousing shots highlighted the form of the batsmen even though Inzamam would have been more than happy with the work done by the spinners, giving him greater options for the next match. "The spinners bowled really well," he said after the match.

Afridi, `man of the match' for his bowling, needed five runs to reach 4000 in one-day cricket, but perished one short of the target when he failed to read a slower one. He was outstanding with his spin wares, producing some stunning faster ones, googlies and Yorkers. He was truly unplayable today.

The Kenyans consoled themselves with some high-fives but failed to alter the course of the match as Pakistan won by seven wickets on a ground swathed in glorious sunshine.

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