A resolute half-century by Hitesh Modi salvaged Kenya from an indigent start to somewhat of a respectable total against India in the final of the Coca-Cola Triangular series at the Eden Gardens in Calcutta yesterday.
Kenya were in deep trouble with four for 23 in the face a double-edged attack from India's new-ball duo of Venkatesh Prasad and Ajit Agarkar before Modi came up with a gritty 71 off 93 balls to pull his side out of the mire to help Kenya reach 196.
In reply, India were cruising along on 148 for one in 26 overs with their run-machine Sachin Tendulkar, in the supportive company of Ajay Jadeja, in full cry. Sachin, to the delight of a large Calcutta crowd, was on 81 and Ajay on 21.
Back to the Kenyan innings, coming in to bat at his customary position of number six, Hitesh Modi led a spectacular rescue operation, putting on 82 runs for the fifth wicket with Kennedy Otieno before adding another vital 37 runs for the sixth wicket with Thomas Odoyo.
The southpaw, who clubbed half a dozen fours in his watchful vigil at the crease, was eventually out in the 36th overs. By then Kenya had reached a face-saving total..
The Kenyans, hot on the heels of their famous victory against India at Gwalior last Thursday, which paved their way to the final at the expense of Bangladesh, looked overtly ambitious against their more colourful and experienced opponents when their skipper Asif Karim, after winning the toss, opted set a target for India.
But the decision of Asif eventually back-fired when the top-order, in the face of some hostile bowling, fell like nine pins. The procession started in the fourth over when Agarkar had Deepak Chudasama caught by skipper Mohammad Azharuddin at second slip.
Back in the side after being sidelined for the last couple of matches due to injury, Chudasama could score only 10.
Ravindu Shah, the sensational discovery in the Kenyan side and the most impressive performer in the tournament, was second to go after making eight runs. The talented right-hander became the first of Prasad's four victims when, deceived by an express delivery from the right-arm seamer, he transformed an attempted pull into a simple catch at mid-on. The Kenyans suffered bigger blows when their vice-captain Maurice Odumbe and Steve Tikolo followed the openers in quick succession.