Kenya v Zimbabwe
John Ward in Taunton - 15 May 1999

CricInfo report

Zimbabwe beat Kenya at a canter

This match was a first for both teams, as neither had hitherto played an official one-day international in England. Zimbabwe, as a Test-playing nation, were the obvious pre-match favourites, but the vital factor was the Zimbabwean batting, which had failed badly in the warm-up matches against the counties. And it proved to be the decisive factor, Zimbabwe eventually romping home with 9 overs to spare.

On an overcast but dry morning, Alistair Campbell won the toss for Zimbabwe and decided to field. This was an expected decision as Zimbabwe coach Dave Houghton thought the pitch, with a slightly uneven green grass cover, would help the seamers at first and then flatten out. Kenya made a cracking start to their innings, scoring nine runs off both the first two overs. Kennedy Otieno set the pace with a sweetly-timed square drive for four off the very first ball of the match, bowled by Heath Streak, and a misfield later in the over allowed Ravindu Shah three off the mark with an off-drive.

A lightning-quick outfield aided Kenya and, to great acclaim from a small but vociferous Kenyan contingent, the score reached 18 without loss after two overs, Pommie Mbangwa also conceding nine in his first over. To their credit, Zimbabwe got their act together quickly, and in his second over Streak had Otieno fighting for his life as he battled through an excellent maiden over, surviving an lbw appeal on the way. Mbangwa conceded only a single second time round. Streak's third over was less accurate, but Shah found difficulty in laying a bat on him, and the battle lines were set.

There was some fine fielding by the Zimbabweans at times, and the Kenyans wisely took no risks between wickets. A slippery spot around square leg when the bowling was from the pavilion end caused some difficulties, though. Streak bowled a succession of wides in the early overs, and the poor form of their main strike bowler certainly hindered Zimbabwe in their efforts to exert pressure on the Kenyan batsmen.

It was Johnson who got the vital breakthrough, as Otieno finally fell, slashing a short ball directly to Grant Flower at point, chest-high. His 17 came off 34 balls and contained two fours. Almost immediately afterwards Shah skyed Andrew Whittall to deepish mid-on, where Strang also found himself well placed for the catch. In two overs the balance of the match had swung completely.

Zimbabwe continued their fightback against Kenya as Neil Johnson continued to inflict damage on the Kenyan middle order with his fast-medium bowling. It was a major blow to Kenya when their most experienced batsman Steve Tikolo was given out caught at the wicket by Andy Flower off Johnson for only 9. Tikolo was clearly unwilling to leave the crease, and the television replay appeared to show he may have been unlucky.

Johnson soon struck again, as left-hander Hitesh Modi moved too far across his stumps and was bowled behind his legs. With the score now 87 for four, Zimbabwe were right back in the game.

Maurice Odumbe played himself in with care, and Alpesh Vadher announced his arrival at the crease with a well-timed flicked four over square leg off Andrew Whittall. Johnson came off after a spell of 8 overs, taking three wickets for 23 runs. After drinks the Kenyans set about consolidating, and a quiet period of play ensued. They concentrated on looking for the gaps and picking up ones and twos, helped by a few wides from Whittall as he struggled to find direction. Vadher scored more freely than Odumbe, who was quite becalmed at times, perhaps all too aware of his responsibilities in a rather fragile batting side.

Odumbe was stuck on 17 for some time before scampering a hasty single to mid-on, and as long as Vadher was at work he was content to play second fiddle. But Paul Strang struck a vital blow for Zimbabwe when he deceived Odumbe with a googly. The batsman unwisely tried to cut a ball just outside off stump, only to find it turning in and trapping him in front of his stumps.

Thomas Odoyo quickly showed a willingness to push the score along, but enjoyed a piece of good fortune when Andrew Whittall put down a low return catch. It was only two balls later that Whittall had the opportunity to make amends, and he made no mistake when Vadher at last played one stroke too many and hit a ball from Strang almost down his throat at long-on. This time he made no mistake. Two wickets in quick succession was a serious blow to Kenya, who went into the last five overs with two new batsmen at the crease.

Johnson made an expensive return to the bowling crease by conceding 16 runs off an over. Thomas Odoyo pulled an uppish four just clear of midwicket; after a single, Aasif Karim swept a four then drove straight for six. Andrew Whittall, bowling flat and too short, had similar treatment from Odoyo. A straight six was well caught in the third row of the crowd, and the next ball was pulled over midwicket for six. 34 runs hads come off two overs.

Johnson's next over was very skilfully bowled; some cunningly disguised slow balls put the batsmen off their stride, then a superb fast yorker hit the base of Odoyo's off stump. Johnson thus finished with the still impressive figures of four for 42.

Kenya's 229 for seven lasted out their 50 overs but proved insufficient to win the match. Zimbabwe faced a target of 230 in their 50 overs.

Martin Suji, opening the bowling, began with a wide to Johnson, and he struggled to find direction, although there was a big lbw shout, mostly through excitement, as he surprised Johnson with a straighter delivery. Ten came off the first over: five were wides (one was run) and five came to Johnson, including a handsome off-drive for four. Umpire Cowie takes a very tough line on wides, while his partner Javed Akhtar seems a little more broad-minded.

Grant Flower played out a maiden over from Tony Suji before Johnson again drove Martin to the extra cover boundary with all the ease in the world. Johnson turned his attention to Tony Suji, with another back-foot four through the covers, while Martin was removed after two overs in favour of Odoyo. He beat Johnson as he tried another forcing stroke to the off, drawing the first real roar of the innings from the Kenyan supporters. The Kenyans showed great enthusiasm in the field generally, and lost little by comparison with Zimbabwe.

Against Martin Suji, Johnson showed he can also score on the leg side by pulling him for six over the midwicket boundary, but tight bowling by Kamande on his legs kept him quiet in the following over.

Spin was introduced as Aasif Karim brought himself on to bowl his left-armers, only to have his second ball hit over his head for six by the rampant Johnson . He achieved the breakthrough, though, when Flower, to his chagrin, drove a comfortable catch directly at mid-off, fielding on the edge of the inner circle. He scored 20 of an opening partnership of 81. Paul Strang, sent in as a pinch-hitter, immediately looked intent on keeping the score moving, while Johnson reached his fifty with a swing down to the long-leg boundary off Kamande. He took only 54 balls, and hit seven fours and two sixes.

Kamande continued to put full effort into each delivery, but he is short of genuine pace at international level and generally no problem for the experienced Zimbabweans.

Strang took his toll of Karim, who changed to round the wicket in an attempt to bowl defensively. This had little effect, as Strang slammed him for a lofted four between mid-on and midwicket, and then drove him over his head for six. Reaching the other end, he slashed the returning Odoyo towards third man, and Tony Suji took a superb low diving catch.

Odumbe starred in the field when diving from backward point to stop a cut from Johnson, who responded by pulling a ball straight down the throat of Modi on the square leg boundary. This rather cramped Zimbabwe's style, bringing two new batsmen in together. Both were able to keep the score moving, however, and began to look for quick singles for the first time in the innings.

Immediately after tea, the flat off-breaks of Odumbe achieved an important break-through for Kenya, as Goodwin swept a ball directly at the cunningly-placed fielder, Karim himself, at backward square leg, out for 17, to continue his run of poor form. Alistair Campbell replaced him and played himself in carefully before snicking a ball from Odumbe just clear of slip and then sweeping him just over the head of backward square leg. He then seemed to play a rather strange mixture of solid defence and sometimes risky attacking strokes, and soon overtook Flower, who seemed determined to book himself in for bed and breakfast, and ensure he was there at the end.

As Zimbabwe neared the 200 mark, Campbell began to open up, playing some powerful strokes on the leg side in particular, while Flower too started to increase his scoring rate. When Odumbe returned to bowl, Flower stepped down the pitch and drove him over his head to the pavilion, but then swept straight to Steve Tikolo at short midwicket to be caught for 34, a rather uncharacteristic end in view of his earlier determination. Zimbabwe were still 17 runs short of victory, and again the policy was to play safe for a while.

Suddenly Whittall broke the shackles by swinging Odumbe over square leg for six, which was immediately followed by four wides down the leg side. He then tried to finish off the match quickly by attacking a string of yorkers, only to have to dig each one out quite sharply. Finally he swung a ball to midwicket and Zimbabwe were home. It was not the most convincing of victories for Zimbabwe, but it was comfortable enough.