|Kenyans shock Sri Lanka
Simon Briggs in Nairobi
In the tournaments biggest surprise to date, the Sri Lankans were scattered by the gentle leg-breaks of Collins Obuya, an unknown 21-year-old who eclipsed Muttiah Muralitharans familiar razzle-dazzle. After Sri Lankas pursuit of 210 had stalled on 157 all out, their captain Sanath Jayasuriya called it the worst day of his career.
This was a correspondingly euphoric moment for Kenyan cricket, a memorable win that went a long way towards repairing the damage caused by New Zealands refusal to come to Nairobi for last Fridays forfeited match.
Whatever the perceived dangers, it would have been hard to imagine a cosier environment than the old colonial Gymkhana ground, filled with politely passionate Kenyan support. Now the Kenyans have effectively won both their Pool B games matches over big-name opposition.
If they can claim another victory over Bangladesh on Saturday - a feat they have successfully managed four times in four attempts in Kenya - Steve Tikolos men will hold a guaranteed total of 16 points, enough to give them a healthy chance of progressing. Bacher, the tournament director, would certainly approve of that.
In truth Monday was a pretty ordinary game, but a fabulous occasion for Nairobi, a city whose feelgood factor has been rocketing since the unpopular President Moi was ousted in a democratic election two months ago.
Jayasuriya probably erred when he put the home side in, but it is worth remembering that Sri Lankas previous match saw Canada skittled for only 36. This time Chaminda Vaas was almost as swiftly into the action, winning an lbw decision against Ravindu Shah with his second ball.
Sri Lanka had less success with the other opener, the wicketkeeper Kennedy Otieno, who opted for a simple block-bash philosophy. His best stroke was a mammoth six over long-on off Vaas, but when he fell for 60, top-edging another mighty heave, the visitors seemed well on top.
No one else was able to pass 26. Yet the fact that Kenya were allowed to turn 112 for four into 210 for nine reflected some lackadaisical cricket from Sri Lanka, who fielded messily and generally seemed happy to let Muralitharan do all the work. Their coach Dav Whatmore later admitted that ``there seemed to be an element of leave it to the next person.
The target was an awkward one, particularly on a pitch that began to ``die in mid-afternoon, growing slower and slower until it was almost impossible to time the ball. Should the batsmen play percentage cricket or should they press on in an effort to fire up their net run-rate?
This dilemma was reflected in the first and most crucial wicket, that of Jayasuriya himself. Looking for the lofted on-drive, then checking his shot, Jayasuriya only succeeded in helping the ball gently into the hands of midwicket.
The scent of an upset was already in the air when his partner Marvan Attapattu drove too early and dragged one on to his stumps. Then Obuya ripped through the middle-order, who were caught cold after 2-1/2 weeks without an outing to the middle.
As if cowed by the challenge of this unheralded team, Sri Lanka handed away their wickets with an air of apology, like pamphleteers outside a tube station. After each success the Kenyans converged into a dancing huddle, their bright red-and-green outfits recalling the giant octopus from the opening ceremony.
Kenyas win continues a great tradition of World Cup upsets, from their own 1996 triumph over West Indies to Bangladeshs unseating of Pakistan in 1999. There is a difference this time, because this result might actually have a bearing on the rest of the tournament.
With Canada and Namibia providing scares of their own in the last week, the minnows
appear to be growing teeth.
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