England begin race for riches in Kenya

Determined Gough begins quest to replace Botham as England's highest wicket-taker in limited-overs internationals
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The Independent Online

It is tempting to treat the ICC Knockout Trophy in Kenya as just another one-day tournament, and there are enough of them these days riding a roundabout which reels at a quite dizzying rate with barely time for a Test series in between.

It is tempting to treat the ICC Knockout Trophy in Kenya as just another one-day tournament, and there are enough of them these days riding a roundabout which reels at a quite dizzying rate with barely time for a Test series in between.

This one promises to be different. With a million dollars in the prize fund it is little wonder that the competing nations are taking it very seriously and every participant is guaranteed $20,000 [£14,500] just for turning up.

With prize money on each match, the winners of the tournament stand to pick up around £240,000, with £175,000 of that total handed over for the final.

This is the first tournament to start with all 10 [now that Bangladesh have been promoted] Test-playing countries and in importance it lies somewhere, but not far, behind the World Cup. The England fast bowler Darren Gough emphasised the importance of it when he said: "I want to win it. For me the ICC Trophy is like a World Championship. First you have the World Cup, then this. And this tournament is a straight knockout so it will be difficult. There will be a lot of pressure on teams from the start."

The tournament opens today with India tackling Kenya, the only non Test-playing nation; as the host country they bring the tournament's complement up to 11. All 10 matches are being played on the square at the Nairobi Gymkhana and in a country which is in the grip of a drought it is fortunate that the Club has its own borehole. Still, the pitches are expected to resemble Asian tracks and take spin.

Favourites have to be Australia, even though they are without the leg-spinner Shane Warne. In Michael Bevan they have the consummate one-day batsman, then there is Adam Gilchrist, Steve Waugh, among the all-rounders are Shane Lee and Damien Martyn, while the attack includes Jason Gillespie and Glenn McGrath.

The odds are that Pakistan will meet Australia in the final, provided they can dispose of New Zealand in the quarter-finals. Since the Kiwis have just suffered a 2-1 series defeat against Zimbabwe, the signs are good for Pakistan who boast Saqlain Mushtaq, the best off-spinner in the world.

For England to reach the final they have to overcome Bangladesh on Thursday. That would bring them up against South Africa next Tuesday who bristle with all-round strength, Lance Klusener, Nicky Bojé, their captain Shaun Pollock and Jacques Kallis, while Allan Donald spearheads the attack.

But India and Sri Lanka cannot be written off. The Sri Lankans will be relying on the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu, who will be expected to show the younger element the way while India will look to their captain Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Vinod Kambli and the masterful Sachin Tendulkar, for plenty of rapid runs.

England are looking solely at their first hurdle, Bangladesh, although Gough is aware that in this tournament and in the one- day series in Pakistan later this month he has a chance to take over from Ian Botham as England's highest international wicket-taker in the shorter form of the game. Botham's record is 145 wickets from 116 matches; Gough has already claimed 133 victims in just 81 games. "It would be great to pass Botham," said Gough. He is supported in the attack by Andrew Caddick and fellow Yorkshireman Matthew Hoggard.

With much expected of Ashley Giles both with the bat and ball, and Craig White similarly, captain Nasser Hussain is being prudent, not pessimistic, when considering England's chances. Alec Stewart and Marcus Trescothick are quick and effective scorers while Graham Thorpe is one of the best left-handers in the world at the short game.

Whatever happens Hussain and his gang are guaranteed leaving Nairobi with a fistful of dollars, but if they work at it an armful awaits them.

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