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Kenyan Black Magic Takes Them Into Semis

Two-thirds way into the super sixes of the world cup; the top three semifinalists have been decided and Kenya is one of the three.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2003 16:57 IST
Sanjeev Varma (
Sanjeev Varma (

Two-thirds way into the super sixes of the world cup; the top three semifinalists have been decided and Kenya is one of the three. Yes, you would have to pinch yourself to believe it, Kenya qualified for the super sixes ahead of South Africa and West Indies and now is in the semis ahead of three mid-table test playing nations New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe.

The unbelievable happened today when Kenya beat Zimbabwe by 7 wickets with nearly half the overs to spare. The unforeseen in the form of political boycotts, rains and some amazingly inspired performances by the Kenyans have seen a Kenya assured of the third place in the super sixes and a semifinal against India.

Now the story on the Kenyan black magic as it happened today...

Zimbabwe decided to bat first and Kenya dished out the recipe that they served India a few nights back...wasn't too hot but simple and straight medium pace seam bowling from Suji saw the top 3 Zimbabweans go down in no time. Internal political turmoil in Zimbabwe, a disjointed team, the individual components of which had their uncertain future occupying the prioritized corners of their mind...probably found it hard to concentrate on cricket.

Andy Flower scored 60-odd in what will be the second last (if not the last) inning of his career -- looked a pale shadow of the batsmen rated as the best in the world for the last couple of years. A sorry end to what was a great career in a mediocre team... could have seen better ends. The same would have to be said about the Zimbabwean team...was really full of talent and potential in the form of Neil Johnson, Campbell, Murray Goodwin, Olonga and Friend at the end of the last world cup in 1999 when it promised to make strides and catch up with the more successful test playing nations.

But since then lack of patronage, sponsorship, politically motivated white-black divide meant that young talents either moved to greener pastures playing first class cricket in other countries and the present lot (generally white players) have many other problems arising out of the black-white divide related to their survival and insecure future as their top most priority...the sad result is Zimbabwean cricket has taken several steps back.

But that doesn't take away the credit from the Kenyans...their leg spinner Obuya , who I had asked the readers to keep an eye on (see analysis on India-Kenya match) was the one who ran through the middle order with some big turning leg breaks...his third good performance and second match winning one. With time, experience and googly added to his armory he will become a genuine match winner. Kenyans caught and fielded like champions and were spirited all the way.

Captain Tikolo kept things simple and straight in the field, didn't let the pressure off for a while and achieved what his more illustrious counterpart from New Zealand, Stephen Fleming failed to against the same opposition i.e., bowled them out for a paltry 133 while against New Zealand they got up to 250 odd.

130 odd wasn't ever going to be difficult and Kenyans achieved what will be the biggest upset of the tournament by losing just 3 wickets -- Odoyo and Odumbe got unbeaten 40 odd each and played some good lofted strokes against a bowling that looked like having resigned to their fate after a brief initial flutter. Andy Blignaut bowled fast but was inconsistent; still his raw pace exceeding 90mph at times was the only trouble that Kenyan batsman had.

A useful bat in the lower middle order Blignaut will be one of the key resources in the depleted Zimbabwe pool for years to come. Finally the controversial but fast Olonga got a game after his vocal support for the English cause...but his batsmen had given him little to work with. Wonder why they kept playing Hondo, when they had Travis Friend in the reserves whom I remember as an impressive quick bowler even on the flat Sharjah wickets.

While it's the end of the road in this World Cup for Zimbabwe, a win in their last match against Sri Lanka might not mean more than a bit of professional pride...for Sri Lanka though it is the last chance to qualify. But this will be a day to remember for the Kenyan team that was maligned by many for having formed the most non-deserving component of the super sixes. They have under Sandeep Patil's coaching achieved a lot more than they set out to. They may or may not go further and more than the significant sum of half a million dollars already assured for a semi final place, it's the increase in following back in Kenya that will be the bigger plus...for Kenyan and world cricket.

A strong stake of claim for test match status is next on the cards from Kenya for they have beaten three test playing sides on their way to the semifinal...And if Bangladesh's test status based on their solitary ODI win gifted to them by Pakistan in the last world cup is the point of reference, than Kenya shouldn't have too many problems.

Indians would be as happy as Kenya for they will now get the easiest of the semifinal opponent in possibly the most difficult of conditions as their semifinal match is a day-night one that is known for difficult batting conditions under lights. It's been a dream run for Kenya, and they wouldn't have anything to lose from the more good day, some more inspirational efforts full of flair from any one or more of the Odumbes, Odoyos, Obuyas and their fairy tale run could see them in the finals.

First Published: Mar 18, 2003 16:57 IST