Let’s look at an Indian team who leave England with what ended up being a bit of a ‘what could have been?’ series for the visitors.
India’s series-clinching win in the fifth ODI against South Africa was their first in six attempts at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.
Of their preceding five defeats at the venue, four came against the hosts (in 1991-92, 1996-97, 2006-07 and 2010-11) and one against Kenya, who were then the leading Associate nation, in 2001-02.
Kenya already had the satisfaction of upstaging India in an ODI once – by 69 runs at Gwalior during a triangular series, also involving Bangladesh, in 1997-98.
In 2001-02, the two teams again found themselves in a tri-series, with hosts South Africa being the third team this time. After three sizeable defeats in their first three games, Kenya were all but out of reckoning for a spot in the final.
This run of three defeats included a rout by India at Bloemfontein, where Kenya were thumped by ten wickets after being rolled over for 90. Thus, five days later, on October 17, 2001, when the two teams met again at Port Elizabeth, in the sixth match of the tournament, few would have expected Kenya to run India close, let alone beat them.
Kenya’s stand-in skipper Steve Tikolo, who was replacing Maurice Odumbe, suspended for two games for accusing the umpire of bias, called correctly and elected to bat. He could not have asked for a better beginning.
In stark contrast to the inept batting display at Bloemfontein, openers Kennedy Otieno and Ravindu Shah delivered a sturdy platform to the innings.
After a circumspect start, Otieno and Shah cashed in on the complacency and inconsistency of the Indian bowlers. They went on to share a partnership of 121, before being separated three balls into the 28th over when part-timer Yuvraj Singh removed Otieno for an anchoring, yet aggressive, 64 from 95 balls, highlighted by six fours and three sixes.
The century opening stand was highly significant, as Kenya’s first wicket had yielded a total of just 12 runs in their first three games. Shah fell to Harbhajan Singh for a stylish 50 in the following over, having faced 75 balls and hit five fours. However, the two quick wickets did not deter Kenya, as Tikolo and all-rounder Thomas Odoyo ensured that the momentum was not lost.
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While Tikolo nurdled his way to 27, Odoyo unleashed himself on the opposition. The pair added 80 in 14 overs for the third wicket, driving Kenya towards a hugely competitive position. Odoyo creamed 51 from 52 balls, with six fours and a six, and was fourth out in the 46th over, with the score at 213. Wicketkeeper David Obuya went for his shots at the death, carrying Kenya to 246/6.
India’s established opening pair of captain Sourav Ganguly and maestro Sachin Tendulkar were severely tested by the Kenyan pace duo of Martin Suji and Joseph Angara under the lights – only seven runs came from the first five overs.
The 29-year-old Angara, who was playing only his eighth ODI and his first since the 1999 World Cup, was particularly impressive with his nagging accuracy.
Angara’s first four overs were all maidens, and in his third over, he claimed the prized wicket of Tendulkar, who was castled after consuming 20 balls for three runs. Ganguly tried to break the shackles with two sixes in Angara’s fifth over, but after ten overs, Kenya were pepped up, having limited India to 29/1. Soon, Odoyo struck with his first ball, sending Ganguly back to make it 40/2.
The medium pace of Anthony Suji, Martin’s younger brother, further pegged India back, as he removed Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh off consecutive deliveries in his third over. India were now 60/4 after 19 overs, and with the asking rate creeping above six an over, the pressure was building in every sense. Jacob Martin, who scored 36, and Reetinder Sodhi tried to ease the situation.
Their fifth-wicket stand had steadily realised 37, when they ran into Angara, who immediately made an impact in his second spell. Sodhi drove him straight to point, where Collins Obuya held an excellent catch. In his next over, Angara knocked Martin’s off-stump out of the ground to make it 100/6, perhaps dashing the last few hopes of staging a comeback that India might have harboured.
Angara finished with a dynamic, career-best return of 10-4-30-3. Harbhajan Singh, who top-scored with 37, swung his bat around, but all it did was reduce the eventual margin of defeat. Odoyo (3/41) nailed Harbhajan and Harvinder Singh in successive overs to terminate the innings at 176 in 46.4 overs. Kenya had defied the odds to a secure a highly convincing win by 70 runs.
This was Kenya’s third ODI win against a full member side, following their 73-run win against the West Indies in Pune at the 1996 World Cup and their aforesaid first win over India. Angara was deservedly named the man of the match, but could not take further part in the tournament due to the demise of his mother. This was to be Kenya’s only win from six matches in the triangular series.
Sixteen months later, Kenya were back in South Africa, for the 2003 World Cup. Nairobi was also allotted two matches – Kenya’s group games against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. While New Zealand forfeited their fixture on security grounds, Sri Lanka were beaten by 53 runs. Kenya later added Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to their scalp list as well, before going down to India in the semifinal.