October 24, 2001

India storm into final with 186-run win over Kenya

What a difference a week makes. Last Wednesday, India lost to Kenya, embarrassed themselves, and persuaded officialdom to turn a beady eye in their direction. This Wednesday, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly fashioned a record limited-overs opening stand as India beat the same opponents by a yawning margin of 186 runs.

You would not say, too, that the distance between the two sides flattered India. On the day, they were so much better than Kenya that they could have declared after 30 overs and still won.

So India will meet South Africa in the final on Friday at Kingsmead. Apart from anything else, Wednesday's result will bring sighs of relief to any number of advertisers in Durban who have based their campaigns on a South Africa-India final.

The afternoon, and the match really, belonged to the Indian openers, who eclipsed their own one-day first wicket record of 252 by making 258, before Ganguly finally got himself out for 111. There was a moment, a very brief one, mind, when Kenya almost got themselves into the match. It came in the seventh over, when Tendulkar had 12, and Martin Suji found the inside edge. The ball flew over the off bail and scuttled for four; that, pretty much, was that.

Thereafter, it was carnage. Suji was smashed out of attack with 41 coming off his first five overs, the spinners were ineffective, and India thundered on and on. Tendulkar eventually went for 146 off 132 balls, his 31st one-day century, and one during which he only lifted the ball off the ground when he meant to.

Even when the opening pair had gone, Kenya's misery was not yet complete. Thomas Odoyo had only eight runs taken off his first five overs. No fewer than 59 came off his last five, and Suji's final over, the last of the innings, went for 26, as a red mist descended over Virender Sehwag.

Sehwag has sometimes been unkindly referred to as a poor man's Tendulkar, but he is quite capable of building his reputation, a point he underlined with 55 off just 23 balls at the death.

India's 351 for three was inevitably well beyond the scope of Kenya, and the East Africans made no real attempt to chase it. Kennedy Otieno fiddled around until the 30th over before finally getting himself out for 40, stumped by stand-in wicketkeeper Rahul Dravid, off Yuvraj Singh (a combination that was to repeat the trick to get rid off Odoyo) and that was about the sum of it.

Hitesh Modi, dragged off the beach earlier in the week when Kenya found themselves running out of players, made 31 not out towards the death, but the runs came when they had very little meaning.

India, then, atoned for their feebleness last week, but in doing so they also emphasised the peculiarity of that dramatic upset. All things being equal, though, the finalists will be evenly enough matched to make for a real contest at Kingsmead.

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