India v Kenya
Bristol - 23 May 1999

CricInfo report by John Ward

India were relieved to pay the minnows Kenya at this stage as they were in the unenviable position of having to win each of their last three matches to have any chance of going through to the Super Six. They celebrated the return of Sachin Tendulkar after his enforced return home after the sudden death of his father. Perhaps in view of the natural exhaustion he was undoubtedly feeling, they did not expect him to open, keeping to their opening pair of their last match, Ganguly and Ramesh.

For their part Kenya never had any realistic hope of reaching the Super Six, but were just eager to cause any upset that might be on offer. They did not find the Indians suffering from over-confidence. It has been said that 'hanging concentrates the mind wonderfully'. So does possible elimination from the Super Six, and India had have their minds entirely on victory.

The morning sky was heavily clouded but with no sign of likely rain. Aasif Karim won the toss for Kenya and followed the usual course by putting India in to bat.

The news from the Indian dressing room was that Kumble had a leg strain and Prasad a shoulder strain, so they were to be rested for the next match. Robin Singh was demoted to twelfth man, a little surprisingly as he had not performed badly in earlier matches. Kenya's Tony Suji, one of their more successful and experienced bowlers, was also missing through injury.

The pitch had a greenish tinge and as usual gave a little help to seamers, especially early on. Apart from Srinath, though, there was a distinct shortage of bowlers to exploit it.

The usual vociferous crowd erupted with every major event to take place on the field, including such dramatic incidents as wides or leg-byes. Kenya, in place of the experienced Tony Suji, blooded pace bowler Angara, but he was to prove very expensive.

Ramesh seemed in good form, scoring most of the early runs, but Ganguly never looked in good form and he was the first to go. He was clearly lbw to the persevering Suji after putting on 50 with Ramesh. Suji was doing a fine job and found quite a bit of early life and movement in the pitch, but Karim was unable to find any other paceman to give him support at the other end. Karim had Suji bowl his ten overs without a break, which was a mistake, as he failed to take another wicket and became noticeably tired and more expensive in his last two overs. It also meant that Karim had nobody to turn to in a tight situation later in the innings. Both Ramesh and Dravid were able to drive him as he overpitched and pick off ones and twos.

Karim brought himself on to bowl his left-arm spin from the Jessop Stand end but the Indian batsmen, who cut their teeth on this type of bowling, had little trouble in picking him off for singles. Suji was replaced by Odoyo, but his direction proved erratic. However, there came about a very silly run-out, which resulted in Ramesh, backing up, being stranded several leagues down the pitch while the stumps at the bowler's end were broken. There followed a great roar of acclaim as Tendulkar walked quietly on to the field to take his place. Ramesh had scored 44 and India were 92 for three.

Tendulkar played three balls from Karim quietly before pushing the fourth gently to wide long-on to get off the mark. The Kenyans got very excited when he sparred at Odoyo outside the off stump, but in any case no-ball had been called. Then the ground erupted as he drove him straight back down the ground to the sightscreen. In Odoyo's next over he hooked and missed, and there was a desperate Kenyan appeal for a catch. Then came a cracking cut to the boundary. He was not at his best, but his genius kept shining through.

Dravid and Tendulkar continued to take it easy, picking off ones and twos almost at will against a toothless bowling line-up. Generally Kenya guarded the boundaries well, except when Karim himself dived over a flick to midwicket from Tendulkar, but were left completely gasping when it came to plugging the ones and twos. There was naturally tremendous acclaim when Tendulkar played the ball to long-on for the single that brought up his fifty, just beating Dravid to the landmark.

India now began to look more aggressively for boundaries. Dravid, unwilling to be completely overshadowed by Tendulkar, took two superbly timed leg-side boundaries off Angara. This enabled him to overtake Tendulkar, but the little maestro regained the lead with a six over midwicket off Odoyo. He reached the eighties with a superb lofted drive for four over extra cover, soon followed by a lofted straight drive to the pavilion, both well clear of fielders. He reached the nineties trying to hit a straight six, but his timing was slightly awry and the ball landed not far wide of long-off; two runs resulted. Dravid was missed off a low catch to midwicket when on 77.

Tendulkar finally reached three figures with an off-drive for two off Tikolo, to the great acclaim of the crowd. His century had taken him just 84 balls and was particularly marvellous effort considering all he has been though during the past five days. He quickly celebrated with a boundary through extra cover, and was now scoring off virtually every ball.

This seemed to be time to experiment for Tendulkar. After a drive over extra cover, he hit two more boundaries in the same over: a sweep over the keeper's head, and a wristy 'fiddle' to third man. Dravid, still looking for his century, got little of the bowling. When the 300 came up, the pair had set a new third-wicket record in the World Cup, beating the 207 by the Waugh brothers in the 1995/96 World Cup - against Kenya, and also the highest for any wicket in the World Cup.

Tendulkar continued to experiment, with a superbly timed reverse sweep also going for four. The last over came up with Dravid on 98; he took a single, and then regained the strike when a pull by Gtendulkar was dropped at long leg but nevertheless saved six. Next ball he cut to backward point and ran through to three figures. Tendulkar celebrated the final ball with an effortless six over midwicket, which was actually caught by a fielder, but on the wrong side of the ropes.

This was India's highest World Cup score, beating their 289 for six against Australia in Delhi in 1987/88, while Tendulkar's unbeaten 140 is second-best only to Kapil Dev's incredible 175 not out against Zimbabwe in 1983. Off only 101 balls he hit 3 sixes and 16 fours. It was described on television as one of the greatest innings ever played; if so, to be honest, only because of the personal circumstances preceding it, as the bowling was quite innocuous throughout. And probably India would still have won this match without it. Still, it was the master at work in an indisputable display of greatness.

At first it seemed as if Kenya's policy was to occupy the crease at all costs and block their way through their fifty overs, as Otieno and Shah scored only 15 runs in the first 9 overs. The bowlers Srinath and Agarkar managed to move the ball away from the bat, and frequently beat the Kenyan openers, flashing in vain time and again, while blocking the straight ones.

After successfully resisting all efforts from the crowd to encourage them to open up, the nerve of the Kenyans seemed to snap as Mohanti came on to bowl. Otieno played the first truly aggressive shot that actually made contact with the ball, clipping him through midwicket for three. Next ball Shah drove him to the cover boundary. After a few more overs of rigid defence, a straight drive by Otieno off the doubtless astounded Srinath raced to the boundary by the Jessop Stand. Such levity, though, was hardly likely to last, and in the next over Shah drove hard into the covers and was well held low down by substitute Robin Singh. Next ball the bowler, Mohanti, beat Gupta and won the lbw decision. The crowd now erupted, anticipating a hat-trick, but Tikolo was equal to the occasion and played the ball firmly into the covers.

The batsmen now seemed more prepared to take their chances and attack when they could, frequently lofting the ball when they did so but managing to stay clear of the fielders. Otieno in particular began to play the lofted drive with abandon, leaving one wondering how long he could last before yielding a seemingly inevitable catch.

Kenyan supporters, in the minority and with little to celebrate all day, finally had cause for rejoicing as Tikolo pulled Mohanti well over the midwicket boundary for a superb six. In his next over he flicked another ball to fine leg, almost for another six. Otieno meanwhile had settled down into perhaps the third stage of his innings, looking aggressive but taking more care to keep the ball on the ground. In between they kept the score moving in ones and twos, and the score mounted at a rate that might be considered worrying had Kenya been batting first. But past matches have shown that once Kenya lose three or four wickets their batting becomes very fragile.

Tikolo had a life when he aimed a six over midwicket, only to send up a terrific skyer which travelled straight to the boundary fielder but was dropped. Although they lived rather dangerously, the players put up a real challenge to India's weakened bowling attack and restored some interest to the game.

Fortune is said to favour the brave, and she did indeed continue to favour both Otieno and Tikolo as they scored off almost every ball as they continued their dominance of the bowling. As they reached the 28th over they actually overtook the score that the Duckworth-Lewis would require of them for victory were the match to be abandoned at that moment.

And precisely at that moment Otieno played one shot too many, swinging Chopra towards long leg, where Agarkar running in took an excellent catch off his bootlaces. Otieno had scored 56 off 84 balls, and Kenya were now 147 for three. This brought in Odumbe, and on past performances Kenya have little batting left after him. Srinath was brought back for his benefit, and almost had him playing on to his first ball. But he had suddenly lost his line and put three deliveries wide down the leg side. Next over he strayed well outside the off stump and was removed from the attack.

Tikolo's fine innings came when he moved across his stumps to Mohanty and was adjudged lbw. His 58 had come off 75 balls. India were now on top, and at once began to play with more conviction. Both batsmen struggled against the bowlers and Odoyo survived a confident appeal for a catch at the wicket, then a difficult high return catch to Chopra, and an uppish pull narrowly wide of midwicket. He is always eager to move down the pitch, even to pace bowlers, which he often works to his advantage but which sometimes gets him into trouble. Two paces down the pitch, and he hit Mohanti for a superb straight six. This young man has plenty of talent and should go far when he gains the experience to make the best use of it.

Odumbe, who had looked the safer of the two, was the first to go, pulling Mohanti straight to substitute Robin Singh on the deep square leg boundary. Both Odoyo and new batsman Karim made good use of the vacant slips now to score many of their runs. Then Odoyo reverted to his tactic of moving down the pitch and hammering the ball into the midwicket area, giving the appropriate deep fielder plenty of exercise. Aasif Karim decided to back away and make room for his stroke, but a yorker from Srinath made a fool of him, bowling him for 8.

Kenya were left needing 121 to win off the final five overs. More realistically, another 21 runs would at least reduce the margin of defeat to double figures. Odoyo laid into Srinath, hitting him a huge blow over mid-on which the fielder could not reach and which went for four, then hooked him for six over a very fine leg. Srinath fought back with a yorker that struck him a painful blow on the toe, but was then hooked for four to long leg. He had less success against Agarkar or Ganguly, who cleverly restrained both batsmen, but they began the last over 96 behind. If Odoyo had any hopes of scoring them single-handed, they were extinguished by the first ball, when Agarkar finally broke through his defences with a fine yorker. Odoyo had played an impressive innings of raw talent for 39, and Kenya were 233 for seven.

The last over was played out in anticlimax until the last ball was bowled, and then the hordes of primitive savagery took over, as an utterly irresponsible mob ignored appeals over the loudspeaker and burst on to the field, to mob the players, run over the pitch and steal the stumps and everything else they could lay their hands on.

This was a high-scoring match, due in the main to two weak bowling attacks. India have kept alive their hopes of reaching the Super Sixes, although they still have to beat England and Sri Lanka. Karim admitted that his team still needed to work on their bowling, but he was pleased with the batting, which had done well in every match so far. The feature of the match, though, was without a doubt the brilliant batting of Tendulkar, who dedicated his innings to the memory of his father.