Proteas crack the whip

S. DINAKAR

CRICKET has its own ways of surprising people. Just when one thought that Kenya, after its creditable display against the West Indies, would put up some resistance against South Africa, it surrendered meekly.

South Africa was in control of this Pool 3 match from ball one and this African battle was destined to be one-sided.

Herschelle Gibbs, the century-maker from South Africa, despatches Maurice Odumbe to the fence.-N. BALAJI

Along the way a little history was made too at the Premadasa Stadium, when the Proteas recorded the highest score in mini-World Cup history - 316 for five in 50 overs. Little went right for Kenya in this day-night game. First the bowlers failed to bowl the right length and strayed in line as well. And to make matters worse, catches were put down. And then, when the lights came on, the Kenyans produced one of their worst batting displays, being bowled out for 140 in the 47th over.

Sadly, Kenya's poor showing came at a time when a case was being made for their inclusion among the Test playing nations. One more creditable performance in this high profile event and Kenya's position vis-a-vis Test recognition would have been strenghtened.

Yet, one forgettable performance cannot bury the fact that given sufficient opportunities and exposure, Kenya stands a better chance of making the adjustment to a higher level than some of the other sides.

Dale Benkenstein gets C. Obuya's wicket, trapping the batsman leg before.-N. BALAJI

The South Africans' easy win put them in the semfinal, and it indeed was a confident display by Shaun Pollock's men. The side rested Allan Donald, still a force, Nicky Boje, nursing a finger injury, and the mercurial Jonty Rhodes for the game, and in came Mkhaya Ntini, Dale Benkenstein and Justin Ontong.

The South Africans were keen on giving each one of their players a run in this tournament; the Proteas are trying out various combinations with World Cup 2003 in mind and the relatively low pressure game against Kenya provided the perfect opportunity for one such exercise.

The South African innings once again showed the value of team-work, after openers Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith laid a solid platform, with a 159-run stand.

Gibbs, a shotmaker before anything else, pulled off some scintillating ones during his 125-ball 116. He is yet another of those dashing men at the top of the order.

Smith, a southpaw being groomed to take over from Gary Kirsten on a long-term basis, was lucky to be dropped on 31 and 66, but he also played some lovely drives on the off-side in his 77-ball 69, the pick being an expansive cover drive off paceman Martin Suji.

When Thomas Odoyo pitched just short of a length, Smith was quick with a flat-batted stroke through mid-off. This was confident batting.

Shaun Pollock is congratulated by Justin Ontong for dismissing Ravindu Shah. Ontong too bowled well, picking up three wickets.-N. BALAJI

He had his first stroke of good fortune at 31 when Ravindu Shah put him down at short mid-wicket, Martin Suji being the bowler. Then, he was let-off by Brijal Patel, a tough catch, at deep mid-wicket off leg-spinner Collins Obuya. However, Smith could not progress to his first ODI hundred, being stumped by David Odoyo off off-spinner Maurice Odumbe.

There was no respite for Kenya as Jacques Kallis, a fearsome striker of the ball, unleashed a flurry of strokes, making 60 off just 53 balls. Brisk hands from Boeta Dippenaar and Lance Klusener at the very end eased South Africa past the 300-run mark. The Kenyans were never in the hunt, with Shaun Pollock and Alan Dawson striking early. Pollock, with the evening dew at the Premadasa Stadium aiding him, was particularly impressive, and Dawson got his deliveries to swing both ways as well. Ntini, left out of the previous game, was keen to prove a point, and he did bowl at a lively speed, getting the ball climb at the batsmen from short of a good length; he did consume both Kennedy Obuya and Maurice Odumbe on the miscued hook stroke.

Once again it was captain Steve Tikolo who defied bravely for Kenya, driving, lofting and pulling with finesse, picking up the gaps quite beautifully - there were as many as eleven superbly struck boundaries in his 97-ball 69. Once he fell to off-spinner Ontong, failing to keep a flick down, there was little interest left in the match.

It was a symbolic moment when the bat slipped out of Tikolo's hands when he attempted to pull Klusener. It was a match that was always getting away from Kenya.

The scores:

South Africa: G. Smith st. D. Obuya b Odumbe 69; H. Gibbs c D. Obuya b Kamande 116; J. Kallis st. D. Obuya b Tikolo 60; B. Dippenaar st. D. Obuya b C. Obuya 31; D. Benkenstein c M. Suji b C. Obuya 7; L. Klusener (not out) 18; J. Ontong (not out) 4. Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-4, w-2) 11. Total (for five wkts. in 50 overs) 316.

Fall of wickets: 1-159, 2-214, 3-285, 4-293, 5-299.

Kenya bowling: M. Suji 8-0-42-0, Odoyo 7-0-42-0, T. Suji 3-0-19-0, Odumbe 10-0-52-1, C. Obuya 10-0-77-2, Tikolo 10-1-54-1, Kamande 2-0-25-1.

Kenya: K. Obuya c Benkenstein b Ntini 16; R. Shah c Kallis b Pollock 3; B. Patel c Pollock b Dawson 0; S. Tikolo c Smith b Ontong 69; M. Odumbe c Donald b Ntini 0; T. Odoyo c Gibbs b Ontong 10; C. Obuya lbw b Benkenstein 14; D. Obuya st. Boucher b Ontong 2; T. Suji b Benkenstein 4; J. Kamande (not out) 2; M. Suji c Klusener b Benkenstein 2. Extras (b-1, lb-2, nb-3, w-12) 18. Total (in 46.5 overs) 140.

Fall of wickets: 1-4, 2-5, 3-61, 4-64, 5-89, 6-119, 7-126, 8-131, 9-134.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 6-2-10-1, Dawson 5-2-12-1, Klusener 5-1-23-0, Ntini 10-2-37-2, Kallis 6-1-17-0, Ontong 10-1-30-3, Benkenstein 3.5-1-5-3, Smith 1-0-3-0.

Making hay while the sun shines

THERE are not too many dull moments when Herschelle Gibbs is at the crease. He is just the kind of cricketer who adds colour to the game.

It was no different at the Premadasa Stadium in the ninth league match of the ICC Champions Trophy when .Gibbs put the Kenyan attack to the sword with a fine exhibition of strokeplay. He is a quick-footed batsman with exceptional hand-eye coordination.

Gibbs has made runs against better attacks than what Kenya had to offer that day, yet he deserves credit for making the most of the opportunity. So much so that he eventually walked away with the Man of the Match award.

It was an innings where he wasn't entirely comfortable at the beginning and there were times when he struggled to find his timing. Yet, he stuck it out and runs began to flow from his blade.

At the end of 10 overs, the South African score read 28 for no loss and it was only at this point that Gibbs' innings took off when the batsman swung Martin Suji to the ropes and, then, walked down the pitch to thump the bowler over mid-on. He was well on his way.

On view soon was a cheeky sweep off paceman Tony Suji, a stroke that captured the spirit of Gibbs' batting. He loves to take chances, loves to knock the bowlers off their line.

The opener duly reached his fifty in 69 balls, his opening partner, Graeme Smith, got there even quicker, in 64, and South Africa's 100 was up in 21 overs. Gibbs and Smith had strung together a sizable partnership, and after the latter departed, Gibbs continued to punish the bowling.

Gibbs, stroking the ball fluently, moved into the 90s, soon crossed his hundred, and launched a blistering attack on off-spinner Jimmy Kamande, dismissing him over mid-wicket for a six, making room and driving him through covers, and then lofting the bowler straight over the ropes.

He fell in the same over nicking to the 'keeper while attempting to essay the glide, but by then, his 125-ball 116 (13 fours and three sixes) had already placed South Africa in a strong position.