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Kenya v Sri Lanka , Group A
Sa'adi Thawfeeq - 30 May 1999

Sri Lanka sign off on a winning note

SOUTHAMPTON, Monday - Sri Lanka ended their reign as World Cup holders on a winning note beating Kenya by 45 runs in their final Group 'A' match played at the county grounds here yesterday.

The win gave Sri Lanka two points, but it was not enough to enable them to make it to the Super Six where only the top three teams in the group qualify. Sri Lanka also beat Zimbabwe, who qualified along with South Africa and India to the next round of the competition which begins on Friday.

For the holders it has turned out to be a disappointing end to their reign as world champions. Their 157-run defeat against India last Wednesday, ended all hopes of qualifying. The only way Sri Lanka may have squeezed in was for India and Zimbabwe, their two rivals to have lost their final group matches. But Zimbabwe went on to topple favourites South Africa and India outplayed England to knock the host country out of the competition.

Sri Lanka's lack of firepower on helpful pitches and conditions was again exposed when they reduced Kenya to 52 for 5 and then allowed them to reach 230 for 6 off 50 overs. But however on this occasion, Sri Lanka were deprived of bringing back their two fast bowlers towards the end of the match due to bad light which threatened to bring the game to a stop had they done so.

Kenya's reply to Sri Lanka's formidable total of 275 for 8, was delayed by rain during the lunch break. When play eventually resumed nearly two hours later, left-armer Chaminda Vaas made the early breakthrough by dismissing Kennedy Otieno for nought and Deepak Chudasama for three to have Kenya reeling at 10 for 2.

Medium-pacer Mahela Jayawardene added the wickets of Steve Tikolo for 19 and the obdurate Ravindu Shah for 12 to reduce Kenya to 36 for 4. When Pramodya Wickremasinghe trapped Kenya captain Asif Karim lbw for four, half the side were back in the pavilion by the 19th over.

Kenya looked in danger of being bowled out for their lowest one-day total - 103 against South Africa at Nairobi in 1996. Their lowest total in the World Cup - 134 against Zimbabwe at Patna in 1995-96 also looked a possibility. But Maurice Odumbe, their former World Cup captain and a solid middle-order batsman prevented that ignominy by sharing the second highest partnership for Kenya in one-day cricket. Their highest is the double-century opening stand of 225 between Chudasama and Otieno against Bangladesh at Nairobi in 1997-98.

Yesterday, Odumbe and Vadher put on 161 runs for the sixth wicket off 29 overs to frustrate the Sri Lanka bowling which was handicapped by the absence of star spinner Muthiah Muralitharan, and the wet ball which the spinners found difficult to grip when it began drizzling round about the 20th over. Muralitharan had to leave the field after bowling three overs with a leg injury, but it is not expected to be serious to stop him from making his debut for Lancashire in the English county championships.

Upto the Sri Lanka match, Odumbe had a disappointing run with the bat scoring 47 runs in four innings. But he nearly doubled that total by going on to make a top score of 82, before Sanath Jayasuriya got through his defences to bowl him in the 48th over.

Vadher continued to defy the bowling till the end to remain unbeaten on 73 as Sri Lanka were unable to bring back their fast bowlers due to bad light.

Sri Lanka have a date with the Queen at Buckingham Palace on June 2 where they have been invited for tea along with other participating teams before they return home the following day. The team won't return in its entirety because some of the players are staying back to visit friends and relations.

Source: The Daily News