How tiny Kenya gatecrashed elite world of cricket gods
Posted Sunday, November 4 2012 at 21:18
- The mood in the air was a sign of things to come — that Kenya would triumph — even as Sri Lanka won the toss and decided to field
- The delirious fans went wild as the local cricketers took laps of honour around Nairobi Gymkhana, the grounds where they had proved to the cricket world that they were no pushovers
- Even though Kenya lost West Indies they had done enough to qualify for the Super Six stage, becoming the first non-test nation to progress beyond the first round of the World Cup
Nairobi Gymkhana was the place to be at on February 24, 2003. Security was tight, but the grounds were teeming with cricket fans while at the 30-metre high media centre, drinks were flowing like water, courtesy of Kenya Breweries and Pepsi, the proud sponsors of Kenya and Pakistan national cricket teams respectively.
Pakistan was not anywhere near, but the visiting team was Sri Lanka, the 1996 World Cup champions which, unlike New Zealand had defied “insecurity” fears and agreed to play Kenya at home in the 2003 Cricket World Cup that was principally hosted by South Africa, with some matches in Kenya and Zimbabwe.
The mood in the air was a sign of things to come — that Kenya would triumph — even as Sri Lanka won the toss and decided to field, and within the first minute, Ravindu Shah was given out to leave Kenya a wicket down with only one run on the board.
Chaminda Vaas took the wicket of Shah with his second ball and added Brijal Patel soon afterwards, before Kennedy Obuya hit 10 boundaries in his fiery knock.
The introduction of Sri Lanka’s star bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, into the bowling attack, saw Kenya’s run rate drop dramatically after he removed captain Steve Tikolo (leg before wicket), his first victim in a spell of four for 28 runs.
He then clean bowled Hitesh Modi, after which he had Maurice Odumbe caught by RP Arnold and then clean-bowled Tony Suji.
Vaas added his third wicket in his second spell before a quick-fire 20 runs from Peter Ongondo took the hosts past the 200-run mark to end with 210 for the loss of nine wickets in 50 overs.
Buoyed by the performance, Kenya was out to prove a point and even though Marvan Atapattu started confidently with two boundaries from the first over, the hosts’ spirits were not dampened.
The Sri Lankan captain, Sanath Jayasuriya, who was a star of the 1996 World Cup, was the first to go, caught by Brijal Patel off Martin Suji after scoring only three runs from seven deliveries.
They were only 13 runs on the board. Atapattu was the second wicket the visitors lost after he was bowled by current assistant coach Thomas Odoyo.
He was followed back to the pavilion by Hashan Tillakaratne who was caught by Tony Suji off the current captain, Collins Obuya, after scoring a 47-ball 23.
Next to fall was Mahela Jayawardene (caught and bowled by Collins Obuya), followed by Kumar Sangakarra (caught by Kennedy Obuya off Collins), the 1996 captain Aravinda de Silva (caught by Kennedy Obuya off Collins), Chaminda Vaas (caught and bowled by Collins), Prabath Nissanka (caught by Thomas Odoyo off Stephen Tikolo), Muttiah Muralitharan (caught by Tony Suji of Tikolo) and CD Fernando who faced eight balls and scored seven runs which included one boundary. He was bowled out by Maurice Odumbe.
With the wicket of Fernando, Sri Lankans were all out for 157 from 44.5 overs and lost the match by 53 runs.
The delirious fans went wild as the local cricketers took laps of honour around Nairobi Gymkhana, the grounds where they had proved to the cricket world that they were no pushovers.
“We were confident of beating the Sri Lankans as we were playing our first match of the World Cup before our home fans,” a happy captain, Tikolo said, while the Sri Lankan captain, Jayasuriya refused to admit that Kenya was a better side, and instead said that “we were not playing like professionals, we played like amateurs.”
Kenya would have cared less. They went back to South Africa where they downed Bangladesh. Even though Kenya lost West Indies they had done enough to qualify for the Super Six stage, becoming the first non-test nation to progress beyond the first round of the World Cup.