Cricket World Cup: Defeated Kenyans finish with record flourish

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The Independent Online
Sri Lanka 275-8 Kenya 230-6 Sri Lanka win by 45 runs

IT WAS a grey day appropriately enough given the colourless nature of a, by now, meaningless match. Mercifully a curtain of rain was drawn across it as the holders, Sri Lanka, sloshed their way out of the World Cup in rather ordinary fashion.

The more fanciful among a rather subdued crowd here saw the persistent drizzle, in which Kenya were forced to bowl their final dozen or so overs, as tears for the homeward bound Sri Lankans.

Victories against the perceived weaker brethren of Group A - Kenya yesterday and the originally unfancied Zimbabwe a week ago - were not enough for a nation whose expectations had been hyped to the heights in the build- up. Their captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, has already admitted that perhaps one or two players have passed their sell-by date, although he stressed that younger players had been found wanting.

Perhaps it is through a want of experience. The senior players in the Sri Lanka have not been at their best and against the ever eager and eternally hopeful Kenyans there was a distinctly casual air to the batting and even to the bowling.

But if Sri Lanka are unhappy, the Kenyans are positively miffed. There are rumours of a rift between players and management, the former complaining that there is not enough technical back-up to allow detailed analysis of where they went wrong and worse, not even a post-match autopsy to air points of view and hear criticism.

Then there was the unpleasant issue of Jimmy Kamande being "rested" after he was accused of chucking in their opening match against Zimbabwe. He missed their next three matches while an International Cricket Council panel examined footage of the offending delivery and by the time he was cleared for action again the self-styled Carnival of Cricket had just about passed him, and them, by.

During his enforced absence the bowling coach Peter Lever, the former Lancashire and England seamer, worked on rectifying Kamande's action. The result was that at least he was able to take a modest part in proceedings again and even took a wicket, although it was a fairly costly one since he entered the fray after Sri Lanka had woken up and had begun going for their shots.

Indeed his final spell was bowled in persistent drizzle that transformed the ball from leather sphere into a slippery orb and reduced control of line, length and pace to something resembling a bath-time grope for the soap. Coincidentally the Kenyans had had to bowl at England in rain in their second match at Canterbury a fortnight ago.

The last sodden 10 overs of the Sri Lanka innings saw the holders move into the ascendancy, Mahela Jayawardena and Chaminda Vaas rapidly building on the sound foundation laid by Ranatunga and Marvan Attapattu, who had each hit half-centuries to pick things up in the middle of the innings.

Their total could, and should, have been more, but there was something almost lifeless and lacklustre about the Sri Lankans.

Kenya could not quite match the strokeplay, although for a while Steve Tikolo and then the sixth wicket pair of Alpesh Vadher and Maurice Odumbe drew cheers from the drenched crowd, because by then the poor Kenyans were batting in rain.

Odumbe and Vadher each smacked valiant half-centuries in a hopeless cause. Their 161-run partnership was a World Cup record for the sixth wicket, a stand that was in vain, but glorious all the same. Kenya at least departed the tournament with heads, and hopes, high.