Suddenly, Kenya's success is history

<preform>India 290-4<br>Kenya 192-7<br>India win by 98 runs</preform>
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The Independent Online

Kenya have not played much first-class cricket in the past 18 months since the World Cup, and it shows. Kenya were semi-finalists in South Africa. It was highly unlikely, but easy to forget. They had been lucky then, and yesterday their luck had run out. What they displayed in its place was pluck and pride.

Kenya have not played much first-class cricket in the past 18 months since the World Cup, and it shows. Kenya were semi-finalists in South Africa. It was highly unlikely, but easy to forget. They had been lucky then, and yesterday their luck had run out. What they displayed in its place was pluck and pride.

Without much luck, nor any experience of playing a world-class spinner, the middle order was terminated by the Turbanator, Harbhajan Singh himself. It was not a pretty sight. In the 25th over, Kenya were 74 for 6, soon after Harbhajan had bowled his 10 overs - his figures were three for 33. In the next 25 overs, Kenya scored 118 more runs for the loss of only one wicket. A 98-run defeat was a rout, but it was not a disgrace.

At the Rose Bowl's first Champions Trophy game, they had a promising start when Steve Tikolo won the toss and asked India to bat, but that was the extent of their luck. Edged shots squeezed past the stumps. Possible catches either fell just short or flew over outstretched fingertips.

In Sachin Tendulkar's absence (tennis elbow), India play a specialist wicketkeeper so that Rahul Dravid can concentrate on his batting. Why, then, Dravid eventually batted at No 6 remained a mystery, but made no difference. India decided on three seamers and only one specialist spinner, but that was just about enough.

Play had begun not all that long after dawn's early light, at 10.15, and the Rose Bowl filled slowly. At a conservative estimate, 95 per cent of the crowd of nearly 11,000, in a ground that holds 16,000, was Indian. Making up for the ban on flags and instruments at Lord's last Sunday, the fans produced a cacophony of horns, trumpets, and whistles.

Sourav Ganguly has promoted himself to opener in Tendulkar's place, and he entered the tournament greedy for runs, but he got out on 90 yesterday, just as he did last Sunday at Lord's. VVS Laxman had stuck with him, however, and they had added 161 before Ganguly was out.

Laxman, one of the most fluent batsmen in world cricket, had looked out of sorts at the start, but his touch gradually returned, until he was out, as Ganguly had been, charging down the wicket in a vain attempt to speed up the run rate, though the innings did not actually take off until Dravid showed that the best way to score fast is to play correctly but fiercely.

His 30 not out came off 16 balls, and he helped to add 77 runs in 25 minutes to take India to 290 for 4. Good enough; there would be no upset at the Rose Bowl.

Just how completely Kenya's luck had deserted them became clear in the fifth over of their run chase, when Kennedy Otieno was run out by a direct hit from Mohammad Kaif at extra cover. Ravindu Shah's most memorable quality as an opener is stickability, and he had scored 33 when he finally came unstuck, edging Harbhajan to the wicketkeeper, Dinesh Karthik.

Harbhajan made the middle order disappear for 16 runs as Karthik caught Thomas Odoyo and Ragheb Aga, quite out of his depth, was caught by Ganguly for a duck. The question being asked then was whether Kenya would get to 100.

But Maurice Ouma and Brijal Patel took advantage of a tepid performance by India's second-string bowlers, and when Ouma was out one short of his 50, Kenya had achieved a kind of respectability.

India's bowlers and fielders had lacked ruthlessness in the second half of the innings. This may not matter against weak opponents. On the other hand, it may identify their Achilles heel.

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