A small margin, but a big victory

The jubilant Kenyans on a victory lap after they became the first non-Test playing nation to reach the second stage of the World Cup.-Pic. AFP

TO put it simply, this was the biggest game in Kenyan cricket history. A victory over Bangladesh would catapult the side into the Super Sixes.

TO put it simply, this was the biggest game in Kenyan cricket history. A victory over Bangladesh would catapult the side into the Super Sixes.

The dynamics of Pool `B' had been such that Kenya found itself in an enviable situation. The African nation's ambush of the Sri Lankans at home had opened up interesting possibilities for them.

The shock win over Lanka, and New Zealand's refusal to fly to Nairobi, meant in the event of a three-way or a four-way tie, the Kenyans would go through... simply because they had `wins' over Jayasuriya's men and the Kiwis.

The Kenyans had to accomplish the mission at the Wanderers against Bangladesh and could not afford to leave it until the final game, where they had to take on the much stronger West Indians.

There was a lot riding in the game for Steve Tikolo's men. History beckoned and they indeed had a wonderful opportunity to become the first non-Test playing nation to enter the Super Sixes stage of the World Cup.

Ironically, it was Bangladesh, whose elevation to Test status had not been too well received by the Kenyans, who now stood in the way of the African nation. Khaled Mashud's men had endured a miserable time in the World Cup, even being beaten by Canada, however, a win over Kenya could muzzle some of the criticism.

In other words, this was a grudge match. There has been a fair amount of needle between the sides, and the feeling in Kenya had been that "If Bangladesh can play Test cricket, why can't we?"

Bangladesh was also entering the contest with a miserable streak behind it — 28 defeats in 30 games, the other two matches being washed out. The kind of run that reveals the low confidence level in the side.

Kenya won the match all right, former captain Maurice Odumbe, sparkling with both the bat and the ball, making a 46-ball 52 when runs were needed, and then picking up four wickets with his off-spin.

These were major contributions in a 32-run victory, and Odumbe had batted with refreshing freedom apart from sending down his off-spinners to a nice line, never really giving room to the Bangladesh batsmen.

The Kenyans, electing to bat, reached a moderate 217 for seven in 50 overs, and Bangladesh, losing wickets at regular intervals, and unable to get partnerships going, could manage just 185 in 47.2 overs.

"This win means a lot for Kenyan cricket. It felt like we were playing in Nairobi, the way the crowd was behind us,'' said a delighted Tikolo, whose three for 14, bowling off-cutters, hugely helped his side's cause.

Kenya had made a disastrous start, losing Kennedy Otieno to Monjural Islam's left-arm pace, and the dismissal had a sobering influence on the side, with Ravindu Shah (37, 54b, six fours), Brijal Patel (32, 60b, 6x4), and Steve Tikolo (27, 45b, 2x4), not exactly finding run-making easy.

Things could have been even more difficult for Kenya had captain and 'keeper Khaled Mashud not put down two catches off the skiddy little medium pacer Khaled Mahmud, not the easiest of bowlers to get away.

It was Odumbe, a natural striker of the ball, who speeded up things for Kenya, and there were useful efforts from all-rounder Thomas Odoyo and leggie Colins Obuya, with the latter striking the only six of the innings during his 21-ball 22.

That Kenya was restricted to 217 for seven suggested that the Bangladeshis had bowled and fielded with that added resolve, however, it was a day when the catching let the side down.

With not really a big score to back them on a good wicket, Kenya needed to strike early to put pressure on Bangladesh and paceman Martin Suji did just that, getting Al Sahariar caught behind and trapping Mohammad Ashraful leg-before to leave Bangladesh tottering at 17 for two.

Tushar Imran (48, 81b, 3x4, 1x6) at No. 3, and No. 6. Akram Khan (44, 60b, 3x4), who only joined the squad mid-day as an injury replacement, alone promised better things for Bangladesh, but when Khan, who struck the ball hard, was the ninth batsman out, caught by substitute Angara off Tikolo, it was all over for Bangladesh.

The jubilant Kenyans, having former India batsman Sandip Patil as their coach, performed a victory lap, and were cheered every step of the way by the 17,000 strong crowd at the Wanderers that had backed them all through the match. There were several Kenyan flags on view too.

Man of the Match, Odumbe, an outspoken figure who has often run into trouble with the authorities in the past, pushed for Test status to his side: "We beat them (Bangladesh) and we have beaten other Test playing countries. This is not a village tournament. It's the World Cup and we won. A few months ago, we nearly knocked off Australia." He was not far off the mark.

The scores:

Kenya: K. Otieno c Mashud b Islam 0; R. Shah c A. Khan b M.Rafique 37; B. Patel c Islam b Mahmud 32; S. Tikolo b Hossain 27; H. Modi c & b Hossain 12; M. Odumbe (not out) 52; T. Odoyo lbw b Hossain 19; C. Obuya b Baisya 22; P. Ongondo (not out) 0; Extras (b-1, lb-2, w-11) 14; Total (for seven wickets in 50 overs) 217.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-68, 3-80, 4-116, 5-124, 6-164, 7-197.

Bangladesh bowling: Islam 7-0-30-1, Baisya 8-1-22-1, Mahmud 10-1-39-1, Rafique 7-0-35-1, Hossain 10-0-49-3, Kapali 2-0-9-0, Ashraful 6-0-30-0.

Bangladesh: Al-Sahariar c Otieno b M. Suji 14; Mohammad Ashraful lbw b M. Suji 1; Tushar Imran c sub b Odumbe 48; Khaled Mashud c Shah b Obuya 14; Alok Kapali c Otieno b Odumbe 18; Akram Khan c sub b Tikolo 44; Sanwar Hossain c M. Suji b Odumbe 16; Khaled Mahmud st. Otieno b Odumbe 3; Mohammad Rafique c Modi b Tikolo 5; Tapash Baisya (not out) 2; Manjural Islam st. Otieno b Tikolo 2; Extras (b-2, lb-3, w-10, nb-3) 18; Total (in 47.2 overs) 185.

Fall of wickets: 1-16, 2-17, 3-53, 4-99, 5-111, 6-151, 7-158, 8-180, 9-180.

Kenya bowling: M. Suji 8-1-27-2, Odoyo 4-0-9-0, Ongondo 7-0-29-0, Obuya 9-0-40-1, A. Suji 4-0-23-0, Odumbe 10-0-38-4, Tikolo 5.2-0-14-3.