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Tikolo backs Australia to win Cup

Kenya captain Steve Tikolo backed reigning champions Australia to beat India in Sunday's World Cup final at the Wanderers.

india Updated: Mar 21, 2003 14:55 IST

Kenya captain Steve Tikolo backed reigning champions Australia to beat India in Sunday's World Cup final at the Wanderers.

Tikolo's team - the first non-Test nation to reach the tournament's semi-finals - bowed out with a 91-run defeat against India in the semi-final at Kingsmead in Durban on Thursday.

But despite that loss, Tikolo, whose unheralded East Africans were beaten by five wickets by Australia in a Super Six match here on Saturday, said he expected Ricky Ponting's men to win in Johannesburg.

"They are the top two teams in one-day cricket. On any day one could win but I'll go with Australia," Tikolo said.

"They've had some close calls and come through. The character they've shown on the field gives them an edge."

Kenya's progress has been beyond all expectations and Tikolo, when asked how he felt now his tournament was over, replied: "A bit relieved. There's been a lot of pressure at this tournament and the boys have handled the pressure pretty well."

The East Africans are due to lose inspirational coach Sandeep Patil - a World Cup winner as a player with India back in 1983 - who is returning home now that his four-year contract has ended.

Veteran left-arm spinner Asif Karim, 39, who took three wickets for seven runs against Australia, is also set to step out of the limelight having come out of retirement for this World Cup.

But Tikolo said he did not know if the team would be losing any of its other old-stagers.

"I really don't know about retirements. It depends on the individual. But we have got some youngsters who I'd like to see come through," he said.

Tikolo admitted the crushing scale of Kenya's semi-final defeat had been disappointing, saying the climax of the Indian innings - where opposing skipper Sourav Ganguly made an unbeaten 111 - had been crucial.

"The way the Indians batted to get nearly 90 runs in the last 10 overs made a big difference.

"When we batted we didn't get the start we wanted and lost wickets regularly."

Tikolo said the highlight of his World Cup had been Kenya's shock 53-run group win over 1996 champions Sri Lanka in Nairobi on February 24.

"That really stands out."

And Tikolo admitted coming down to earth after such success would be difficult. "It will be hard to adjust. There's been a lot of hype. We'll take a month off and regroup."

First Published: Mar 21, 2003 14:50 IST