Key matches

A team not yet given Test status goes on to script a well-earned victory over a two-time champion. But those who have watched the steady decline of the once-invincible West Indies team were more surprised not by the defeat, but by the manner in which it lost to Kenya, in the Wills World Cup.

K. KEERTHIVASANK. KEERTHIVASAN West Indies v Kenya, Pune, Feb. 29

THE facts tell it all. A team not yet given Test status goes on to script a well-earned victory over a two-time champion. But those who have watched the steady decline of the once-invincible West Indies team were more surprised not by the defeat, but by the manner in which it lost to Kenya, in the Wills World Cup.

Chasing a paltry 166, West Indies could muster only 93, its lowest ever in the World Cups (the other lowest score by West Indies was the 87 it totalled against the Aussies in the World Series championship in 1991-92).

It was a disgraceful performance by a team, which had in its ranks batsmen such as skipper Richie Richardson, Brian Lara, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul — who are capable of taking on any bowling attack. Interestingly, the highest score was by Chanderpaul (19), just two runs more than the Extras. Medium pacer Rajab Ali was the pick of the bowlers taking three wickets for Kenya.

In a refreshing move, Richardson decided to open along with Sherwin Campbell, but the move backfired. Campbell and Richardson were dismissed with the score reading only 22. Kenya's confidence only grew when star batsman Lara (8) was caught behind off the bowling of Rajab Ali. And finally, when Ali disturbed the last batsman Cameroon Cuffy's stumps, Kenya knew that it had achieved the impossible.

Earlier, a 44-run partnership between Hitesh Modi (28) and Thomas Odoyo (24) enabled Kenya, struggling at 45 for three, to post 166. After losing all its three previous matches, this was indeed a sweet and memorable win.

"It is a dream come true," said Kenyan captain Maurice Odumbe. "To beat your idols... to beat a team like the West Indies whom we look up to and who are very good is something fantastic for we cricketers and people back home. I can't believe it even now — it is yet to sink in." Both the teams are pitted in the same group in the 2003 World Cup. Will history repeat itself?

India v Sri Lanka, Kolkata, March 13

The passionate crowd at the Eden Gardens turned restive in the semifinal match between India and Sri Lanka unable to see the Indian stars surrendering without an iota of fight. The charged atmosphere prevented the contest from taking its logical course, forcing the organisers to award the match to Sri Lanka, with India chasing 251 for eight, struggling at 120 for eight. The Sri Lankans remained the only team not to suffer a defeat in the World Cup. For India, the match was as good as over, what with 132 runs to score for a win from 15-odd overs, and two wickets remaining, when the crowd started throwing empty bottles into the ground. When play was stopped finally, Vinod Kambli was at the crease, and the sight of him shedding tears was one thing that will not be easily forgotten by fans.

Put in to bat, Sri Lanka got off to a disastrous start, with its big-hitting openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, getting out cheaply off successive balls. But two veterans — Aravinda de Silva and Roshan Mahanama (58) steadied the innings — not through one's and two's, but by sheer aggression.

Aravinda's knock (66, 47b, 12x4) was easily the innings of the evening. `Mad Max' was at his best, pulling and driving with consummate ease. When he was bowled by Anil Kumble, another `old hand' took charge. Arjuna Ranatunga's rock like presence was the cornerstone once again as he did the resurrection job with a characteristic 35.

For India, opener Sachin Tendulkar's (65) was the only bright spot in the chase. Sachin's dismissal led to others following suit. In the end, what stayed in mind, was the Lankans' impressive batting display, the spineless Indian batting and the utterly despicable crowd behaviour.

West Indies v Australia, Mohali, March 14

Fighting is Aussies' strength, fighting is in their blood. Against West Indies in a semifinal match, the Australian spirit was all-pervasive as the team coasted to a thrilling five-run win.

Requiring nine to level scores, with Damien Fleming bowling the last over, West Indies could manage only five runs. Despite Richie Richardson's unbeaten 49, nothing quite worked for West Indies as they buckled under pressure.

The man who provided vital breakthroughs was `Man of the match' Shane Warne. He began his spell with a first ball dismissal of opener C. Browne (10), then came back to send Gibson, Adams and Ian Bishop in a three-over spell that sent the West Indies hurtling towards its doom.

It was not only Warne who changed things around for Australia. Batting first, it was the pair of Stuart Law (69) and Michael Bevan (69) that was instrumental in Australia reaching the total of 207 for eight, adding 138 runs. It was a wonderful comeback especially at a stage when Australia was struggling at 15 for four. In simple terms, Australia had men for the occasion while West Indies had none.