A tale of two batsmen

S. DINAKAR

THE match was a tale of two innings, rather two batsmen. It was a game that belonged to Brian Lara and Steve Tikolo, two gifted cricketers with contrasting careers. One a superstar, the other barely recognised, even in his own country.

When the West Indies batted, Lara's 111, an innings played under immense physical distress brought out the man's temperament. The knock itself was like a curate's egg, good in parts.

Yet, when Lara looks back at his effort at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground, he would surely consider it among his most prized innings; he gave all that he had in this knock.

Brian Lara, who braved hepatitis, to make a century, sweeps C. Obuya.-N. BALAJI

Steve Tikolo fell short of a well deserved hundred. It was an innings laced with exceptional strokeplay and sound defence. A 93 that kept Kenya in the hunt till the climactic stages of the match.

West Indies won this Champions Trophy Pool 3 encounter by 29 runs. Opting to bat, they made 261 in 50 overs, but they might have got considerably less had the Kenyans held their catches. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, opening the innings, was dropped at 3, 10, and 36 and he went on to make 43.

Lara was put down when on 61, and he went to make 111. "Those chances at this level should be taken. I don't see why we should have put them down. It was probably due to different conditions," said captain Tikolo at the end of it all. Those missed catches did dent the Kenyan hopes.

In the West Indian innings, opener Chris Gayle, like so often these days, blazed away at the start before throwing it all away, again, like so often these days. He made 33.

Chanderpaul, never remotely as elegant as Gayle, played 76 balls for his 43. Lara, on 30, survived an extremely confident shout for caught behind off leg-spinner C. Obuya as he attempted to glide the ball. The decision was also referred to the third umpire.

As his innings progressed, especially after the 80s, Lara unleashed some spectacular strokes, and the thin but lively crowd enjoyed every moment of his stay at the crease.

Steve Tikolo, who took the fight to the Caribbean camp with a sterling 93, swings Carl Hooper to the fence.-N. BALAJI

During the middle of the West Indian innings, a fine spell by Maurice Odumbe (10-1-21-1), sending down off-spin, halted the team's progress, and it was only Lara's strokeplay, and useful hands from Ramnaresh Sarwan and Wavell Hinds that carried the score beyond 250. In fact, the last 10 overs fetched 87 runs; Hinds' was a particularly punishing innings, the left-hander striking two sixes and a four in his six-ball 20.

At the SSC, where there is always some reward for bowlers willing to put in that extra effort, it was a challenging target for Kenya. Left-arm paceman Pedro Collins struck the first blow, castling Kennedy Obuya, who shuffled across, leaving his leg-stump exposed, for nought and though Ravindu Shah and Brijal Patel got starts they could not really consolidate. It was only Tikolo, who waged a lone battle.

The right-handed Tikolo's technique is simple yet laudable; the Kenyan is balanced in both defence and offence, and invariably plays close to his body. Tikolo does pick up the line quickly and doesn't take much time in getting into position for his strokes. And he possesses sublime touch and timing.

He eased to a 91-ball 93 before becoming the seventh batsman dismissed with the score at 219 in the 47th over.

Had it not been for the fact that he had to seek quick runs and so had to sacrifice his wicket for the sake of his side - he was bowled taking a swipe at Mervyn Dillon - Tikolo would surely have got to the three-figure knock. His dismissal, for all practical purposes, signalled the end of the Kenyan challenge.

Hooper had words of praise for Tikolo - "Tikolo played as any one in the circuit. Because he is a Kenyan it doesn't mean he cannot play. I don't think this is the first time he has played a good innings against a good side. He is a good player."

Ravindu Shah tries to despatch Mahendra Nagamootoo to the on side, but misses the line of the ball and is bowled.-N. BALAJI

In fact, Tikolo is more than just a good player. His is a glittering talent, mostly lost to the cricketing world, because he turns out for a country that doesn't even have Test recognition.

The scores:

West Indies: C. Gayle c T. Suji b T. Odoyo 33; S. Chanderpaul c D. Obuya b Odumbe 43; B. Lara b Tikolo 111; C. Hooper c K. Obuya b Tikolo 20; R. Sarwan (run out) 20; W. Hinds (run out) 20; R. Jacobs (not out) 2; M. Nagamootoo (not out) 0. Extras (b-1, lb-5, nb-3, w-3) 12. Total (for six wkts. in 50 overs) 261.

Fall of wickets: 1-60, 2-115, 3-179, 4-236, 5-246, 6-258.

Kenya bowling: M. Suji 9-1-49-0, T. Odoyo 9-0-63-1; T. Suji 5-0-16-0; Odumbe 10-1-21-1; Obuya 10-0-57-0; Tikolo 7-0-49-2.

Kenya: K. Obuya b Collins 0; R. Shah b Nagamootoo 27; B. Patel c Hooper b Nagamootoo 35; S. Tikolo b Dillon 93; M. Odumbe lbw b Dillon 9; T. Odoyo c Hooper b Collins 15; D. Obuya (run out) 3; C. Obuya c Chanderpaul b Gayle 19; T. Suji c Collins b Gayle 7; M. Suji b Collins 1; J. Angara (not out) 0. Extras (b-6, lb-14, nb-1, w-2) 23. Total (in 49.1 overs) 232.

Fall of wickets: 1-7, 2-51. 3-101, 4-143, 5-170, 6-178, 7-219, 8-231, 9-231.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 10-2-45-2, Collins 9.1-4-18-3, Drakes 9-0-38-0, Nagamootoo 8-0-47-2, Hooper 4-0-26-0, Gayle 9-0-38-2.

A brave show indeed

IT is turning out to be a Lankan jinx for Brian Charles Lara. He was in prime form in the Emerald Isle last year before colliding with Marvan Atapattu during an ODI in Kandy, and ended up fracturing his left elbow. The master left-hander's tour was cut short.

This time it was illness - suspected hepatitis - that not only forced him to miss the second half of the game aginst Kenya, but also ruled him out of the Indian tour.

A pity since the Trinidadian left-hander was just running into form. It was brave of Lara, who was feeling uneasy in the morning, to still volunteer to play against Kenya, and he did not let his supporters down.

As the innings progressed, it was clear that Lara was struggling with his fitness, and it is to his credit that he carried on, not taking the easier option of retiring hurt.

Considering his physical discomfort, it is not surprising that it was an innings where Lara often struggled to find his touch and timing, yet as the knock entered its later stages, he willed himself to essay several sparkling strokes.

None shone brighter than his imperious square-drive off paceman Thomas Odoyo immediately after he had reached his hundred, the left-hander finding the gap to perfection.

Earlier in the over, Lara had reached yet another ODI century with a scorching pull, and the effort had come in quick time (114b, 7x4, 2x6); considering his illness, his hundred was nothing short of a remarkable feat.

Between periods of struggle there were some memorable strokes: the straight drive off Odoyo after stepping down the track, using his feet and driving leg-spinner Obuya through the covers and sweetly striking Tikolo, bowling off-spin, over long off for a six.

Probably, sheer exhaustion and a need to accelerate the scoring in the end overs resulted in his wild heave at Tikolo, and the ball hit the stumps.

Almost immediately on getting back to the dressing room, he was rushed to a Colombo hospital and after two days came the news of his withdrawal from the tour of India.

For its sheer character the innings will stay in the mind for long. Lara has made SSC his favourite hunting ground. Against Sri Lanka in the Test series late last year, the southpaw ran up scores of 221 and 130, tackling Muttiah Muralitharan's off-spin with aplomb.

At the SSC on September 18, 2002, we saw a different facet of Brian Lara's cricket - his battling instinct. The man from Trinidad is more than just a great strokeplayer.