A runaway winner

THE clouds hung over Kingsmead testing the nerves of the Indians. It was not the fear of the match being washed out. In that event, India would have cruised into the final without having to bowl a ball against Kenya.

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

Sourav Ganguly receives the Man of the Match award from Ian Botham. — Pic. V. V. KRISHNAN-

THE clouds hung over Kingsmead testing the nerves of the Indians. It was not the fear of the match being washed out. In that event, India would have cruised into the final without having to bowl a ball against Kenya. But the threat of facing the Duckworth-Lewis formula was real and the Indians obviously were not comfortable with this situation.

The clouds, however, were blown away and the spectators, much less than anticipated, were treated to an uninterrupted contest. The enocunter as such did not rise to expectations as Kenya simply ran out of steam in a big-match situation. Credit to the Kenyans though for having travelled this far.

A one-sided contest was always on the cards with the Indians in great form, peaking towards winning the title. A century from Sourav Ganguly followed the good work by Sachin Tendulkar and these two were India's key performers, leaving the stage to the bowlers to exploit the brittle Kenyan batting.

As Kenya skipper Steve Tikolo said, "It's more of a relief for us. There was a lot of pressure on us once we made it to the Super Six but it was quite creditable that we made it to the semifinals when no one gave us any chance. We always knew it was going to be tough playing India but I'm happy at the way things progressed for us in the tournament."

The Kenyans deserve credit for their resolve in making the most of the situation. The bowlers began well, adopting a stump-to-stump line, but the batsmen failed to stand up against an inspired attack. "When the Indians batted the ball was not coming through but it zipped when our turn came. Maybe the dew had a part to play but I must say that our batting was a let down. I expected the batsmen to perform much better," said Tikolo, who distinguished himself with a half century.

Ganguly underplayed his innings, his 22nd century in one-day internationals and the third in this World Cup and gave credit to the team: "We've emphasised on playing like a unit and not paid attention to individual distinctions. It's always a good feeling when the team gains from your efforts but I would like everyone in the team to share the credit. When we arrived for the World Cup we knew if we played to our potential we would make a place in history and I'm glad we managed to do just that."

When India batted first, the knock by Tendulkar was in keeping with his awesome form and it was clearly aimed at occupying the crease. The instructions to Tendulkar were to hang in there and he did just that. "He's been in splendid form and it was crucial for the team that he made another big score. I was also happy with my timing and knew it was going to be our day," remarked Ganguly.

India's response to the task was exemplary and spoke for the team's strength. The batting exploded in the last 10 overs when runs came in a flurry for India. "I think India batted well at the death. We always knew their batting had the depth but then we bowled very poorly and the game drifted away. It was the turning point as far as we were concerned. The Indians had the wickets in hand and accelerated their scoring at the right moment," said Tikolo.

For a semifinal, the contest was a disappointment. "I know it was one-sided but such things happen. I think we deserve credit for winning all our matches after that defeat against Australia. It was tough to come back but the team played very well under pressure," said Ganguly. Ganguly led from the front and was in control as far as the team's tactics were concerned. Winning the contest was of paramount importance even if the Indians enjoyed a pre-match superiority.

India's performance was clinical. The batsmen were set on the right path by Tendulkar and then Ganguly dominated. The India skipper, who has been inconsistent , did not waste time on this occasion and settled down to produce a quality innings, full of attractive strokes. The ease with which Ganguly adapted was the feature of his knock. He did not mind waiting for the ball because it was important to keep wickets in hand. And then his ability to belt the spinners helped the left-hander as he came down heavily on the Kenyans. Ganguly's charge on the Kenyans was planned. "I enjoyed batting. One had to make adjustments," commented the India skipper.

India outclassed Kenya but the vanquished team earned a warm applause from the audience at the end of the match. The players came out to acknowledge the support they received from the public and Kingsmead became a lively arena. "The crowd support meant a lot to us. It must have convinced our critics that we deserved our place amongst the elite. It was disappointing the way we lost because we never got the start we expected," commented Tikolo.

Even as the Kenyans prepared to leave for home, someone asked Tikolo if he would retire from cricket. "I can't say as of now. We've been looking for youngsters to replace the seniors, but that is for the selectors to decide. As far as I know, we go home and regroup after a while. In between we would have time to reflect on our performance at the World Cup. I'm sure most would agree that we were the most improved side," said Tikolo, who hoped his country would gain the much-deserved Test status.

The scores:

India: V. Sehwag c Odumbe b Ongondo 33; S. Tendulkar c D. Obuya b Tikolo 83; S. Ganguly (not out) 111; M. Kaif (run out) 15; Y. Singh c D. Obuya b Odoyo 16; R. Dravid (not out) 1; Extras (w-9, nb-2) 11; Total (for four wickets in 50 overs) 270.

Fall of wickets: 1-74, 2-177, 3-233, 4-267.

Kenya bowling: M. Suji 10-1-62-0, Odoyo 10-1-45-1, Ongondo 10-1-38-1, Karim 4-0-25-0, Tikolo 10-0-60-1, C. Obuya 6-0-40-0.

Kenya: K. Otieno c Dravid b Srinath 15; R. Shah lbw b Zaheer Khan 1; P. Ongondo c Zaheer b Nehra 0; T. Odoyo c Sehwag b Nehra 7; S. Tikolo b Tendulkar 56; M. Odumbe c Zaheer b Yuvraj Singh 19; H. Modi c Dravid b Zaheer 9; D. Obuya (run out) 3; C. Obuya lbw b Tendulkar 29; M. Suji b Zaheer 1; A. Karim (not out) 0; Extras (b-16, lb-8, w-15) 39; Total (in 46.2 overs) 179.

Fall of wickets: 1-20, 2-21, 3-31, 4-36, 5-63, 6-92, 7-104, 8-161, 9-179.

India bowling: Zaheer Khan 9.2-2-14-3; Srinath 7-1-11-1; Nehra 5-1-11-2; Harbhajan Singh 10-1-32-0; Yuvraj Singh 6-0-43-1; Sehwag 3-1-16-0; Tendulkar 6-0-28-2.