India v Kenya at Durban, 20 Mar 2003
Anand Vasu

India innings: 25 overs, End of innings,
Pre-game: Toss & Teams,
Kenya innings: 25 overs, End of match,

India booked themselves a place in the final of the 2003 World Cup, where Australia are waiting for them, with a convincing 91-run triumph over Kenya in their semi final. After the seamers had wrecked the Kenyan top order, the part time bowlers chipped in, dismissing Kenya for 179 in their pursuit of 271.

The rain that was forecast failed to show up, apart from one slight drizzle and India made sure that there were no surprises as they qualified for their first World Cup final since 1983, where they beat the West Indies.

Only Steve Tikolo (56) stayed at the wicket long enough to make a sizable score, but his was a case of too little too late. With no one to partner him, Tikolo’s runs bolster his average, but did nothing to change the result of the game.

One over off Yuvraj Singh in particular got the Kenyan supporters to their feet as Tikolo smacked two sixes and a boundary in an over that yielded 21 runs.

With the bulk of the job done early on however, Ganguly did not want to risk injury to any of his key bowlers and used his part time bowlers generously. While this extended the Kenyan innings to 46.2 overs, it did not get in the way of India registering an easy win.

Zaheer Khan with (3/14) and Ashish Nehra (2/11) were the pick of the Indian bowlers.

With the threat of rain looming large, India got through 25 overs in a hurry and had Kenya in deep trouble at 82/5 at the halfway mark. Kenya were far behind the required score by the Duckworth/Lewis calculations.

Once again the Indian seamers did a great job at the top, removing the first four Kenyan wickets with just 36 runs on the board.

Bowling a probing line and length Zaheer Khan trapped Ravindu Shah plumb in front when the opener had scored a painful solitary run off 17 balls.

Peter Ongondo, sent in as a pinch hitter hit Ashish Nehra straight to Zaheer Khan for a duck.

Kennedy Otieno looked all at sea opening the innings and was struck on the helmet and body more than once as he handled the short stuff very awkwardly. He was finally put out of his misery in the 14th over, caught behind for 15 off a perfectly pitched Javagal Srinath delivery.

Thomas Odoyo (7) and Maurice Odumbe (20) also fell as Sourav Ganguly marshaled his troops efficiently, running through over after over.

At the halfway mark Kenya were 82/5 and looking down the barrel.

Tendulkar yet again missed out on a century that was there for the taking after batting sensibly and solidly for 83 (101b 5x4 1x6). Thanks mainly to Sourav Ganguly putting his foot down on the gas India put together a feisty 270/4 on a wicket that was hardly ideal for batting.

Having got a good measure of the wicket, Tendulkar proceeded to milk the bowling, striking the loose balls to the fence, being especially severe on anything short of a length. With the ball not really coming onto the bat, Tendulkar checked his trademark booming drives and concentrated on low risk shots.

The fact that he struck just four boundaries and one six in his 83 tells you how hard it was to go after the bowling. When he finally did fall, it was with a century well in his sights, pulling the off-spin off Steve Tikolo straight down the throat of the man on the leg side fence.

Ganguly too began in most circumspect fashion. Once he got set however, there were few problems for the Indian captain. The advantage of being able to come down the wicket and loft the ball effortlessly helped Ganguly keep the run rate up at a healthy level.

In his unbeaten knock of 111 (114 balls) Ganguly smote five boundaries and five cracking sixes – one of which went clean out of the ground. The spinners and pacemen alike came in for the treatment as the smile re-appeared on Ganguly’s face. The left-hander’s shot selection was spot on, with the exception of one across the line heave to a Collins Obuya googly.

That blip apart, Ganguly’s innings was one that flowed well, peaking at the right time. When he walked down the wicket and launched Martin Suji into the stands at long on to reach three figures Ganguly brought up his third century of this World Cup, the 22nd of his career.

Mohammad Kaif bustled about for 15 before he was run out and Yuvraj Singh (16) provided the impetus at the end of the innings to take the Indian total on to 270/4.

Kenya will now have to bat very well to overhaul this score. The match referee might very well dock the Kenyans an over or two for a slow over rate.

What India would have wanted, above all, after opting to bat first, was to get a good start on the board, one that would demoralise a Kenyan attack hoping to capitalise on a fresh wicket and overcast conditions.

Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag did just that, not through their usual method of smashing the cover off the ball, but by keeping the opening bowlers out for more than 18 overs and denying them the all-important initial breakthrough.

Sehwag looked to be more aggressive to start with, pummeling the ball through the offside between point and cover a couple of times. But Kenya's bowlers rapidly bounced back with tighter control over line and length, and Thomas Odoyo in particular was miserly, his first six overs going for only 19 runs.

Tendulkar did manage to get in two vicious pulls though, when Martin Suji and then Peter Ongondo dug it in short for the Indian master to thump it away, once to square leg and once to midwicket.

The pace slowed after the 11th over as Kenya pulled the run-rate back, and just after the drinks break, the pressure finally told on Sehwag. Trying to hoik an Ongondo delivery that was not really too short, Sehwag got a top edge that spooned high into the air for Odumbe to catch easily at the edge of the circle on the offside. Sehwag made 33 (56b, 3x4, 0x6) and was dismissed with the score on 74.

Tendulkar proceeded in his inimitable fashion, and a few straight drives off left-arm spinner Asif Karim stood out. He reached his fifty with a delicate sweep to fine leg in the 22nd over, only confirming his stamp on this tournament and moving closer towards the Player of the Tournament award.

At the 25-over mark, India were 99 for one, with Tendulkar on 55 and Sourav Ganguly on eight.

India named an unchanged side to take on Kenya in their semi-final encounter at Kingsmead, Durban. But it was not the teams that held the attention of fans as the time for the match drew near.

Heavy rains in and around the Durban area meant that there was every possibility that the game would be completely abandoned, or at least curtailed.

Bright sunshine and some good work by the ground staff however enabled play to start on the scheduled time.

The Indians will heave a sigh of relief, even if there is a high chance of rain later in the day.

When Sourav Ganguly called correctly to win the toss, there was a big grin on the face of the Indian skipper as he quickly chose to bat first.

There is still plenty of moisture in the air and under the surface and this should aid the bowlers through the course of the day. The outfield is likely to be on the slower side.

This will please Kenya no end as spinners Collins Obuya and Aasif Karim should get the ball to grip on the surface and turn a bit.

The early threat for the Indians however is from seamer Martin Suji. If he puts the ball in the right places early on, the Indian openers might just have be a bit careful.

Teams: India: V Sehwag, SR Tendulkar, *SC Ganguly, M Kaif, +R Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, D Mongia, J Srinath, A Nehra, Z Khan, Harbhajan Singh.

Kenya: +KO Otieno, RD Shah, *SO Tikolo, MO Odumbe, HS Modi, TM Odoyo, CO Obuya, MA Suji, PJ Ongondo, AY Karim, DO Obuya.

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Date-stamped : 21 Mar2003 - 00:22