Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Power of One

Kenya ended up losing their Intercontinental Cup match against a Zimbabwe X and their captain Vusi Sibanda who was almost single-handedly responsible for not just winning the match for the home side, but indeed for rescuing them from what should have been a big first innings deficit. In a match where Kenya twice looked like they were going to really dominate only to miss going for the jugular and allow their hosts back into the game, Sibanda looked a total class above all others on the field. His two innings produced 325 runs, only 10 less than the target set be Kenya for Zimbabwe to chase on the final day. It was a batting effort that highlighted both the shortcomings of the Kenyan attack and also the frailties of the rest of the Zimbabwe team. Without him, this match would have had a very different outcome.

Having been put in bat on day 1, Kenya produced several partnerships that could have been built on to post a big total. Unfortunately the familiar curse of wickets falling in pairs continues to haunt the team and while several players got starts only 2, Tikolo and Obanda, converted these to half centuries and no one went close to a century, in this format of the game something very necessary to set a team up for victory. Despite having opportunity to turn the screws on their hosts, Kenya instead faded to 333 when at one stage 400 looked like it was on the cards.

Day 2 again began with Kenya on top as Zimbabwe lost early and regular wickets. One man alone seemed able to defy the bowlers, but even the brilliance of Sibanda did not look like enough to salvage anything less than a first innings deficit of at least 100. Kenya were clearly in the driving seat with Zimbabwe at 178/7 and should have been able to strangle their hosts out of any hope of either a victory or first innings points. Finally however the Zimbabwean skipper found a worthy partner in Chakabva and the two put on a 161 run partnership that not only rescued first innings points for Zimbabwe but also seemed to break the belief of Kenya. Chakavba is no slouch with the bat at all and came into this match with two First Class centuries under his belt, but for a team to let an opportunity like that slip and allow an opponent off the ropes is something that Kenya must exorcise if they are to ever dominate even the Associates in the longer format of the game, let alone compete with the Test nations or their A sides with their greater First Class exposure.

Once Zimbabwe had first innings points in the bag, they gave Kenya a masterclass on how to pile pressure on an opponent. Kenya's second innings was like the first littered with starts, but yet again no one was able or allowed to convert these to a score that would have swung the pendulum back Kenya's way. By the end of day 3 Kenya had folded to 254 all out, with only a half century from Captain Maurice Ouma to stand out on the scoreboard.

There was a brief moment of hope for the visitors on day 4 as again early wickets fell, but once again, Kenya were unable to make the pressure tell and once again it was that man Sibabda that was there to orchestrate Zimbabwe's innings. On day 2, Kenya had finally managed to dismiss him for 209, This time there were not enough runs on the board to make it possible. A third wicket stand of 166 with Chibhabha pretty much left the outcome of the match decided and it was then a matter of playing for pride for Kenya. To their credit, they stuck to the task and in the end reduced the margin of victory to 5 wickets, but it was an easy win for Zimbabwe. A win that is all the more painful as if Kenya had been able to subdue the opposition skipper, or even to have put enough pressure on the rest of the team, they would have won themselves.

Credit must go to Sibanda for his fantastic effort. He is the first player to score both a double century and century in the same game in the Intercontinental Cup and if he continues to play that way will almost certainly earn a call up to the full team. Kenya however must regroup fast and focus on springing an upset in the ODI series. Then they must return home and coach and administration must combine to ensure there is the opportunity to play competitive multi-innings cricket. The Elite Leagues are supposed to run hot on the heels of the NPCA comp finishing in November and these cannot come quick enough. The NPCA League is now competitive enough that the best players get to play each other regularly at limited overs cricket, but unless they get the same experience in the longer games, we are likely to continue to see these games escape when we take on teams at International Level.

Fingers crossed we will see better results when the ODI series begins tomorrow.

1 comment:

Chemosit said...

Zimbabwe A's so-easy-in-the-end victory by five wickets over Kenya in the Intercontinental Cup at Kwekwe must be very worrying. To let a side off the hook once is just about excusable, to do so twice in the same game reeks of negligence or poor planning. Eldine Baptiste will have his work cut out ahead of the ODIs. Let Kenya not use Vusi Sibanda's two great innings as an excuse! And I wonder why, between them, Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo only bowled six overs in Zimbabwe's second innings?

- Topspinner