Pakistan avoid controversy in easy win over feeble Kenya
Captain Afridi takes five wickets with his spin to give side a victorious start against outclassed Africans
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Thursday 24 February 2011
There is always a frisson surrounding Pakistan but their first match since the outcome of the spot-fixing investigation passed off with the minimum of fuss, thanks in no small part to the inadequacy of their opponents. Kenya were beaten by 205 runs yesterday in Hambantota on Sri Lanka's southern coast, offering Pakistan the easiest of reintroductions to a competition in which they have a characteristically chequered history.
Back home in Karachi, Salman Butt was working as a TV pundit on the tournament – much to the ICC's annoyance – and the fallout from his actions in England last summer will be hard for the team to shake off, especially with Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif due in court in London next month to answer criminal charges, but there are few teams capable of such swift reinvention as Pakistan.
Kenya provided amenable opposition, delivering a record 37 wides yesterday. Their executives are among those who protested on the eve of the World Cup over the ICC's decision to cut the next competition to 10 teams, four fewer than are taking part in the current six-week marathon. But their team have done nothing to suggest the ICC have got it wrong. In two games, against New Zealand on Sunday and Pakistan yesterday, they have managed to bat for 57 of the 100 overs on offer. New Zealand dismissed them for 69 and Pakistan bowled them out for 112, Shahid Afridi taking 5 for 16.
They were making reasonable progress on 66 for two but Afridi introduced his brisk leg spin to wreak havoc over the course of his eight overs. His figures are the best by a Pakistan captain in the World Cup, improving on Wasim Akram's five for 28 against Namibia in 2003.
It was in that World Cup in southern Africa that Kenya reached the semi-finals, and although that was in no small part down to a quirk in the way the tournament panned out with teams refusing to play in Zimbabwe, there was nevertheless seen to be enough talent around to promise a bright future. But hampered by an ineffective governing body and a lack of developing talent, Kenyan cricket has stagnated.
Pakistan started slowly, but half-centuries from Misbah-ul-Haq, Younus Khan and the Akmal brothers, Kamran and Umar, reached a healthy 317 for 7. Umar Akmal top-scored with 71 from 52 balls. Kenya's only batting contribution came from Collins Obuya, who made 47.
In Delhi today South Africa, one of the favourites, open their campaign against West Indies. South Africa are well used to coming into World Cups as a fancied side but have so far proved woefully ineffective in dealing with expectations. South Africa have won their last 11 one-day internationals against today's opponents, while West Indies have amassed only a solitary one-day success this year, against Kenya.
With a recent series win over India and a comfortable warm-up success against Australia, the build-up could not have gone better for Graeme Smith's side. "I think we have prepared really well," he said, before offering the habitual pre-match warning. "It takes one good performance, like from Ten Doeschate, to put you in the game. You can't afford to take people for granted these days."
Following the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori has called on his team-mates to offer the nation some "light relief" against Australia tomorrow. "The biggest thing we can do for people is win against Australia. That will bring a little bit of light relief to some people going through a tough time," he said.
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