Leading from the front

Published : Oct 20, 2001 00:00 IST


THE Kenyan cricketers were beaten, but not shattered in defeat. After all they went down to South Africa, which, only two days before, had made light of a massive target of 280 against India at The Wanderers. So the result in the second match of the Standard Bank tri-series at the Willowmoore Park, Benoni, did not come as a surprise as South Africa beat Kenya by seven wickets. It could not have been different, other than a comprehensive win for Shaun Pollock's team against a country which was playing only its eighth one-day international in 26 months.

The South African establishment, which has taken the responsibility of developing the game in the African continent, rescheduled the one-day programme from a seven-match series against India to a three-nation tournament and it invited Kenya. It is true that the Kenyans are short on exposure. After the 1999 World Cup in England, they have played three matches in the LG Cup in Nairobi, one ICC knock-out match and three matches against the West Indies.

Their captain Maurice Odumbe was not off the mark when he said after the defeat: " We have come here to learn. We are capable of playing good cricket. We don't get to play quality sides like South Africa often. I think we are going to struggle for every run and every wicket we get. We have to wait for the batsmen to make mistakes. We don't have a penetrative bowling attack."

Kenya was simply not there in the match after Shaun Pollock removed opener Kennedy Otieno (863 runs and two centuries before this match) off the first legal delivery of the encounter. The South African seamers may have come under punishment from batsmen of the class of Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar, who together, have played over 400 internationals. But the Kenyans, barring the notable exception of Steve Tikolo and to a certain extent, Odumbe, had no answer to the line and length the likes of Pollock, Andre Nel and Makhaya Ntini managed to get in their first and subsequent spells.

Ravindu Shah came into his 21st one-day international with 643 runs at 32.15, which was better than the averages of Odumbe and Tikolo. But he spent 64 minutes at the wicket to make eight runs. The batsman who joined him at the fall of the first wicket, David Otieno, made 17 in 78 minutes. They got themselves cramped and rarely managed to push the ball. Shah might have believed luck was not with him when he punched Ntini straight down the ground for a four, but in the process he disturbed the wicket to be ruled out 'hit wicket'.

The brightest phase of the Kenyan innings was when Odumbe joined Tikolo. Both had played 37 matches for their country, Odumbe coming into the match with 836 runs and Tikolo with 1053 runs and one century. They looked very competent to deal with the South African attack which was in the hands of Jacques Kallis, left arm spinner Claude Henderson and Lance Klusener. Odumbe matched Tikolo stroke for stroke before giving his wicket away to Klusener.

The Kenyan captain's exit at 90 left the fortunes of the team completely in the hands of Tikolo, who, not for a moment, appeared to be ruffled by wickets crashing at the other end. He made some lovely strokes on either side of the wicket and even showed guts in hitting Pollock straight down the ground, a shot that actually passed the mid-off fielder in a flash. He did not run out of partners, but did not get much of the strike in the last 10 overs.

As Odumbe said: "He (Tikolo 68, 135m, 83b, 8x4), was kept away from the strike. When he was on 60, he was not allowed to face the majority of the bowling. The South Africans were very professional in doing that. We got a decent start, but could not make use of it."

The Kenyans put together 159 in 50 overs with Tikolo contributing a major share in it. The home team passed this score with seven wickets in hand and 98 balls to spare and having scored at a faster rate it also got the additional bonus point. Jacques Kallis made a half century and Neil McKenzie, an undefeated 49.

For Kenya, medium pacer Thomas Odoyo showed a lot of purpose and picked up the wickets of the openers, Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs, who earlier in the day, had held a spectacular catch to dismiss Martin Suji. Kallis, too, held a good catch running from mid on to a position close to long on to hold a catch of Thomas Odoyo. These two fielding attempts were, indeed, big efforts from Gibbs and Kallis.

A delighted Pollock said after the match: "We were happy to win. It was a good performance by us today. It's difficult to gauge them (Kenya) in one game. I am sure they will be disappointed with the way they batted. The ball was not coming on and they will have to work on their stroke play."

The highlight of the match was, of course, the bowling performance of the three seamers in Pollock, Nel and Ntini. Pollock's 10-1-29-2 won him the 'Man of the Match' award. The South African selectors met immediately at the venue to pick a full squad of 14 players for the next two matches against India and Kenya. They brought back left-arm spinner-allrounder Nicky Boje in place of Claude Henderson. Opening batsman Boeta Dippenaar also got a call along with seamer Charl Langeveldt. The idea is give them chances as soon as South Africa books its berth for the final.

The scores:

Kenya: K. Otieno c Boucher b Pollock 0; R. Shah hit wkt. b Ntini 8; D. Otieno c Nel b Kallis 17; S. Tikolo (not out) 68; M. Odumbe c Gibbs b Klusener 24; T. Odoyo c Kallis b Nel 7; M. Suji c Gibbs b Ntini 13; T. Suji c & b Pollock 9; P. Ogondo (not out) 1; Extras (lb-3, nb-4, w-5) 12; Total (for seven wickets in 50 overs) 159.

Fall of wickets: 1-1, 2-27, 3-35, 4-90, 5-106, 6-134, 7-155.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 10-1-19-2, Nel 10-2-24-1, Kallis 6-1-25-1, Ntini 10-3-25-2, Klusener 7-0-26-1, Henderson 7-0-37-0.

South Africa: G. Kirsten b Odoyo 17; H. Gibbs c Shah b Odoyo 20; J. Kallis lbw b C. Otieno 54; N. McKenzie (not out) 49; J. Rhodes (not out) 6; Extras (b-2, nb-7, w-5) 14; Total (for three wickets in 33.4 overs) 160.

Fall of wickets: 1- 21, 2-52, 3-140.

Kenya bowling: M. Suji 4-0-22-0, Odoyo 7-1-24-2, Ogondo 3-0-19-0, T. Suji 2-0-17-0, C. Otieno 9.4-0-45-1, Odumbe 4-0-14-0, Patel 4-0-17-0.

SHAUN POLLOCK bowled 10 overs in three spells, took a wicket off the first legal ball (0.1) he bowled in the match and also off his last and finished with a superb analysis of 10-1-19-2.

The match adjudicator Douglas Sibali, a former manager-selector with Easterns Cricket, did not look beyond the South African captain for the 'Man of the Match' award in the South Africa - Kenya tie. Thus Pollock became the second South African to win the award in two matches of the Standard Bank tri-series event, promoted as 'The Summer Spice Series'.

The South African captain began the match at the Willowmoore Park, Benoni, overstepping the popping crease and a no-ball was called by the umpire. So it was the second ball of the day, after Kenya had won the toss and elected to bat, that turned to be a legal one and it produced a wicket. Opener Kennedy Otieno, drawn forward to defend, edged to wicketkeeper, Mak Boucher, who is also the vice-captain of the side. Pollock had given a fine start to his team's campaign again.

Pollock took himself off from the firing line, bowling 36 balls for five runs. It's not that the Kenyan batsmen, Ravindu Shah and David Otieno, were all at sea; they simply did not have the skills to work the ball away for singles and rotate the strike. They defended and remained at their respective ends for a long time. Pollock returned for a second spell of two overs in which he conceded nine runs and in the last spell of two more overs, he gave away only five more runs before signing off with a caught and bowled of Tony Suji.

There was help from Pollock's new ball partner Andre Nel and also Makhya Ntini, who were as economical as himself. Nel bowled his first six overs for a meagre 16 runs and Ntini bowled six for 11 runs and also got the wicket of Shah. So it turned out to be a good day for the South African fast and seam bowlers, led by Pollock.

Things have been happening for Pollock since Hansie Cronje was sacked as captain for his involvement with the betting syndicate in India during the 2000 series. A very high official of the United Cricket Board South Africa had confided during the first Test in Mumbai in February 2000 that though Pollock appeared a natural successor to Cronje, he would not have got the highest accolade because the selectors were not looking to remove Cronje from the job and that after the World Cup 2003, someone younger might have been made the captain.

But as it turned out, South Africa's cricketing world turned upside down with Cronje being condemned, and Pollock elevated to captaincy. The sudden turn of events also saw the nomination of Mark Boucher as vice-captain, ahead of a senior player like Jacques Kallis. But the important happening was Pollock being named captain for South Africa's immediate engagements. He has been retained since and the good thing about this red-haired player from Kwazulu-Natal is that he has not allowed the burdens of captaincy to affect his bowling which is his primary responsibility to the team. This day was another instance he was able to prove this point with a spell any bowler dreams of bowling in limited over internationals. Conceding less than two runs an over was just too good an effort from him.

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