ENGLAND YESTERDAY cruised to their second victory of the World Cup, beating Kenya in conditions more suited to mid-winter rituals like curling than a summer carnival. Set 204 to win after they had bowled Kenya out in the 50th over, the main threat came from the weather and the umpires' cock-up over the time allowed between the innings, which could have played a significant part.
Instead, with drizzle still falling, the match victory was completed after Nasser Hussain unbeaten on 88, and Graeme Hick not out for 61, saw their side home with 11 overs to spare.
The mix-up arose after the start was delayed by 90 minutes following heavy overnight rain. Under such circumstances, the regulations allow for the interval to be squeezed between 10 and 35 minutes in the pursuit of a one-day finish. However, with England completing their overs 10 minutes early, the match was not restarted for another 55 minutes, the umpires deciding, in error, that the interval could only be trimmed on the second day.
To compound things, the pressure to get a result in a single day, then forced them to bring Kenya back out with drizzle still falling, after rain had stopped play with England having faced just 20 overs. To be declared a valid game for Duckworth-Lewis purposes, 25 overs have to be bowled and Kenya's co-operation in continuing with a wet ball and outfield was generous and sporting.
Until they bowled, Kenya had been fairly game opponents, boosted as they were by Steve Tikolo's handsome 88 and a thumping contribution from Thomas Odoyo, a player known as the African Botham. It was Odoyo, who after making an unbeaten 34, took the only wicket - a sharp nip-backer that pegged back Alec Stewart's middle stump.
Kenya have only played 27 one-day internationals in four years and their lack of experience showed. But while their bowlers will learn to be more canny, they need to find a strike bowler. Even in conditions made for seam bowling there were enough bad balls for Hick and Hussain to keep risk to a minimum. Trading drives and cuts as if they were baubles, they could not be contained as Kenya kept its field close in the vain pursuit of wickets.
The grey clinging rawness of the day could have been designed to dent African enthusiasm. Most cricket in Kenya is played at altitudes of over 5,000 feet, which does not prepare you for the numbing cold endured by both players and spectators at Canterbury yesterday.
Yet the Kenyan spirit appeared willing despite the early loss of Kennedy Otieno for nought. Asked to bat after Stewart won his second successive toss, the visitors, unused to bowlers of Darren Gough's pace, might easily have folded. Instead, a spirited retort by Steve Tikolo and Ravindu Shah, made light of Kenya's minnow status to add 100 runs from 136 balls for the second wicket.
Tikolo in particular looked a class act but England will probably claim that he was out before he had scored, following a concerted appeal for a caught behind off Ian Austin. Replays, however, were far from categoric, though the half-hearted shot attempted was not repeated.
In its place, spectators were treated to a sumptuous array of strokes none better than the drive on the up, taken off Gough, as the bowler sought out the channel of uncertainty around off-stump. Later, a thumping swat off Robert Croft crashed into the boards at square leg.
Shah, at least when he swung the bat, was no less retiring and he crashed several lofted off-drives as well as a pull off Mullally to the boundary. Unable to find the same persuasive rhythm that had helped him at Lord's, Mullally was less threatening than he had been on Friday, a fact that forced Stewart to resort to Gough for the breakthrough.
The Yorkshireman did not disappoint and in his first over back, Shah was caught behind off an inside edge. At that point Kenya were 107-2 in the 27th over and still on for a big total. Gough had other ideas though and he promptly uprooted the batsman's middle-stump with one of full length that nipped back down the hill.
The moment was a vital one for it began a period of stagnation where Kenya's middle-order failed to give Tikolo the strike. On 53 when Shah went, Tikolo added just 18 runs in 14 overs, though his share of the 81 balls bowled was 35. Understandably, frustration got the better of him and he fell having miscued a slower ball off Mark Ealham.
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