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Thursday, October 18, 2001

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Kenya posts a challenging total


By G. Viswanath

PORT ELIZABETH, OCT. 17. This year's tri-series in South Africa has been dominated by the batsmen. Except for a few high class performances by quality bowlers, the batsmen have held sway in the first part of the Summer Spice series, that is in the home stretch and less than 10 days away from the final.

A typical example of the nature of the pitches prepared in the tri-series was evident at the St. George's Park on Wednesday when the beleaguered Kenyans made four runs short of 250 against the Indians, not a formidable total, especially after a splendid first-wicket stand of 121 runs.

The pitch was a real beauty. Even Kenya's opening pair of Kennedy Obuya and Ravindu Shah, who had struggled and were separated in the previous three matches at scores of 1, 5, and 7, made the second highest opening stand of the tournament, the first one being Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar's 193 against South Africa at `The Wanderers' 12 days ago.

The Indian bowling attack might have been without its regular new ball bowlers - Javagal Srinath and Ajit Agarkar - but the Kenyan openers must still get all credit for making the Indians wait eight minutes short of two hours to get their first breakthrough.

In spite of a string of failures, the Kenyan team management showed faith in Kennedy Obuya. The attacking right- hander came into the match with scores of 0, 14 and 2. His partner, Ravindu Shah, had a better outing in his third innings (55). The Kenyans believed they could take the form they showed in the previous match against South Africa at Kimberley into the next match.

In between their third and fourth matches of the tri- series there was the unfavourable news of their captain Maurice Odumbe being suspended for two matches for violating the International Cricket Council (ICC) Code of Conduct for Players and Officials. Their manager, Mr. Mehmood Qaraishy, suffered a heart attack and underwent an open heart surgery. But the openers put behind them all the troubling news and made the most of the decision, stand- in captain Steve Tikolo took, electing to bat.

Without Srinath and Agarkar in the firing line, the Indian bowling attack lacked the two main elements, speed and skill in the first hour of play. The Indian captain was forced to quickly change the ends of Venkatesh Prasad, who returned to the eleven after two matches, and Harvinder Singh. But the Kenyan batsmen, who had had the advantage of practising on a strip beside the pitch on which the match was played, gave their team a bright start.

It was Shah who showed the first signs of aggression, cutting Prasad past a diving Yuveraj Singh at point and then making a more elegant shot off the backfoot off the same bowler. Then Kennedy Obuya began to unleash shots that confirmed he was sighting the ball very well and hitting it hard, too. A swat back off Harvinder went to the straight boundary like a bullet. He followed this up, pulling Prasad over backward square-leg for a 6. Shah matched him with a similar stroke and by the 10th over of the innings Ganguly was wondering how to stop the flow of runs. Prasad and Harvinder looked out of sorts on a perfect batting pitch. Having taken the field without his main new ball bowlers, the Indian captain was compelled to bowl himself and left-arm spinner Yuveraj Singh for the first time in the tournament.

Even an accurate bowler like Anil Kumble, who gave away only 14 runs in the previous match against the Kenyans at Bloemfontein, was picked easily and hit for runs in his first spell. A fine on- drive by Kennedy Obuya and a flicked boundary to mid-wicket by Shah, being proof of Kumble's inability to make an impact on the openers.

A shot that truly brought out Kennedy Obuya's class was his hooked 6 off Ganguly. The ball landed on the blue coloured plastic chairs, 15 metres beyond the backward square-leg fence. He followed this up with two shots over mid-on off the Indian captain. He reached his half century in style with an off- driven 6 off Reetinder Singh Sodhi. It was Kennedy Obuya's fourth half century, which also brought up the century partnership for the first wicket. Soon Shah completed his half century in the 28th over.

Left-arm spinner Yuveraj Singh produced the first wicket when he had Kennedy Obuya lifting a skier to Sachin Tendulkar, positioned a metre or so inside the long-off fence. Kenya lost its first wicket at 121; two runs later, Harbhajan Singh, introduced in the 25th over, had Shah sweeping to Yuveraj at square-leg. Two wickets off six balls came as a double breakthrough; the Indians were happy because both the in-form batsmen were back in he pavilion. Kennedy Obuya and Shah had maintained a run rate of four an over; their dismissals, saw it dip under four.

Odumbe being absent in the Kenya batting line-up meant a promotion for Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo. The Kenyan captain was circumspect and did not hit a single boundary, while Thomas Odoyo, who likes the sweet sound of the bat striking hard and long, sprayed the ball all over the park to score a 52-ball 51, with one straight driven 6 off Harvinder Singh. The predictable bounce and speed gave opportunities for David Obuya to help himself to a useful 26, which had a straight hit 6 off Prasad. The Kenyans finished at 246, their best in four matches of the Standard Bank tri-series.

Scoreboard

KENYA

K. Obuya c Tendulkar b Yuveraj 64 (112m, 95b, 6x4, 3x6) R. Shah c Yuveraj b Harbhajan 50 (116m, 75b, 5x4) S. Tikolo b Harbhajan 27 (48m, 42b) T. Odoyo c Martin b Kumble 51 (56m, 52b, 6x4, 1x6) D. Obuya b Prasad 26 (30m, 27b, 2x4, 1x6) C. Obuya c Sodhi b Prasad 3 (8m, 6b) M. Suji (not out) 8 (13m, 8b) S. Gupta (not out) 1 (1m, 1b) Extras (b-1, lb-5, nb-6, w-4) 16

--- Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs)246 ---

Fall of wickets: 1-121 (K. Obuya), 2-123 (Shah), 3-203 (Tikolo), 4-213 (T. Odoyo), 5-220 (C. Obuya), 6-243 (D. Obuya).

India bowling: Prasad 8-2-45-2, Harvinder 9-1-42-0, Sodhi 3-0-14- 0, Kumble 10-1-36-1, Ganguly 3-0-21-0, Harbhajan 10-2-38-2, Yuveraj 7-0-44-1.

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