Friday, October 16, 2009

Sweet, Sweet Victory

Kenya bounced back yesterday in the 3rd ODI v Zimbabwe to win by 20 runs and keep alive a series that had threatened to become embarrassing. For the first time on the tour, Maurice Ouma won the toss and not surprisingly opted to bat. Kenya were once again in experimental mode with both batting order and line up and this time found some things that worked.

Alex Obanda who had so far looked uncomfortable at 3 in the earlier games this time opened with the in form David Obuya and it proved to be a perfect combination. They got Kenya off to a rollicking start both bringing up their half centuries in an opening stand of 119 before Obuya (56) fell to the medium pace of Masakadza. From a position of domination, Kenya then proceeded to let Zimbabwe back into the game as Tikolo (1) and Obanda (65) both followed shortly after.

with new batsmen at the crease, Kenya now found the going much tougher and though Patel (20) and Ouma (17) both got starts, it looked like Kenya were going to throw away their advantage completely. This feeling was only compounded by the run out of Kamande (5) which left Kenya reeling at 185/6 after 38.4 overs. Considering Kenya had at one stage been 115/0 after 19 overs, Zimbabwe would have been very happy with their comeback.

Just when things were looking their gloomiest for Kenya however enter Thomas Odoyo and Collins Obuya. The pair waited until the 40 over mark and then launched a vicious attack on the Zimbabwe bowling with Odoyo particularly brutal in his 28 off 22 deliveries. He did then come unstuck to a return catch to Ray Price, probably the pick of the Zimbabwean bowling, but he had given the inning enough impetus to allow Collins Obuya to fire through to the end to finish on 52 off 63 deliveries though the last half of those runs came at well over a run a ball. Obuya was run out on the final delivery as he put team ahead of statistics in a bid for one more run. Thanks to the fine efforts at the beginning and end of the Kenyan innings, they finished on 266/9 and would have gone into the break confident of a maiden victory on the tour.

Zimbabwe started their chase in familiar fashion plundering 15 runs of the first 2 overs before Odoyo struck twice to have both Vermeulen (lbw for 6) and Coventry (bowled for 1) back in the pavilion and Kenya right back in the driving seat. Unsurprisingly this did not seem to deter the form player of the tournament so far, Hamilton Masakadza who promptly took 3 boundaries of Odoyo's next over. A double bowling change had the desired effect for Kenya however as Kamande went for 1 in his first over and Nemiah Odhiambo had Masakadza caught by David Obuya for a run-a-ball 44. It was a vital wicket for Kenya and with the required run rate slowly climbing they should have already scented victory.

Again however Zimbabwe contrived to get out of jail with a watchful and responsible partnership between Brendan Taylor (91) and Stuart Matsikenyeri (58). The pair put on 142 for the 4th wicket and though the run rate required continued to inch its way over 6 an over, Zimbabwe still looked as though they had done the Houdini with about 10 overs to go. Just as they were looking comfortable, Hiren Varaiya did what he so often does for Kenya and took 2 quick wickets. Both were bowled and both were the settled batsmen, first Matsikenyeri then in his next over, Taylor. Suddenly it was Kenya back on top and Zimbabwe who had the jitters.

Having done the damage, Varaiya was then pulled from the attack with the remaining six overs shared out between Odoyo and Odhiambo and it was the latter who came up trumps taking 3 more wickets to finish with his first ever 4 wicket haul in ODI cricket. Without Sean Williams, unable to bat due to injury, Zimbabwe lost their final wicket with the penultimate ball of the match but by then the result was academic anyhow. Kenya had held on to a vital and morale boosting win. what was even more satisfying for the visitors was that this win still came with so many of the players not yet playing to their potential. So far this series has seen them improve every match and they will now go into the remaining two games confident that they can not only compete with their hosts but beat them as well.

One final point to ponder: so far in the three ODIs, Kenya have conceded a total of just 20 extras. Zimbabwe have conceded 51. Perhaps already a sign of a tighter ship under the new coach?

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