September 17, 2002

Lara illness overshadows West Indies win

Brian Lara began the day against the Kenyan bowlers in unconvincing fashion before easing himself into the kind of form that makes some people rate him second to none with the willow.

Scoring his 15th ODI ton - although perhaps not one he'll treasure - Lara spurred West Indies on to a victory that will have helped salvage some pride after their loss against South Africa.

The West Indies scored 261/6 and the Kenyans, despite a committed knock of 93 by skipper Steve Tikolo, could only muster 232 runs in their reply. Beating Kenya by 29 runs the men from the Caribbean will now have to pray that some miracle occurs when Kenya and South Africa meet. Tikolo's team not only have to win, but must do so by a large margin.

That Lara was not at his best was evident early on. The trademark shots, lashed with a slicing arc of the bat, appeared every now and then, but the ball did not disappear to the outfield as it usually does. As it turned out it was not a question of bad form. As soon as he completed his innings of 111 (137 minutes, 120 balls, eight fours, two sixes) he was examined by a doctor.

Frequent breaks in his innings had suggested leg cramps, understandable in the unbearable humidity. But doctors were sufficiently concerned to rush the left-hander to hospital, where he will remain for tests and observation for 24 hours. An ICC release confirmed afterwards that he has suspected hepatitis.

The Kenyans let themselves down in the field. The bowling was ragged and a more organised side than the West Indies would have made the Africans pay more dearly. Usually so athletic and agile, the Kenyans could hold on to their catches. No doubt coach Sandeep Patil will be organising extra fielding drills.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul was one beneficiary. First when he had scored just three by Thomas Odoyo at fine-leg off the bowling of Martin Suji and later when a relatively easy chance at short mid-wicket was floored by Ravindu Shah. Tony Suji was the unfortunate bowler on this occasion.

In the first game against South Africa, the Guyanese southpaw struggled, scoring 45 off as many as 98 balls. Today, he made 43 before falling to Maurice Odumbe - Kenya were let off lightly.

But dropping Lara, however, is a different proposition altogether. When he was put down by Tony Suji at long-on Lara had 61 to his name. He made sure that the lapse cost Kenya an additional 50 runs.

Even with a brisk opening partnership of 60 between Chris Gayle (33) and Chanderpaul, the West Indies found the going tough. Run scoring proved difficult, particularly against Odumbe's off-spin. After 45 overs the score was a mere 204.

Then came a spell of batting that made all the difference between the two sides.

Wavell Hinds used the long handle to good effect smiting 20 runs off seven balls including a dramatic hit that sailed over extra cover for six. Fifty-seven runs came off the last five overs and West Indies had a respectable if not spectacular 261 to defend.

When West Indies took the field, minus Lara, they had several points to prove. Mervyn Dillon would have been keen to snare a few wickets and restore his confidence after the game against South Africa where he conceded 16 runs including a wide at a crucial moment. It was, however, left-armer Pedro Collins who struck first, removing Kennedy Otieno for a duck.

Ravindu Shah played some elegant strokes in his 27 but was undone by the leg-breaks of Mahendra Nagamootoo.

Tikolo, widely-recognised as the best batsman in the world not to be playing Test cricket, dominated the Kenyan innings. Shoring up the middle-order with a 91-ball 93 he showed that Kenyans aspire to being competitive at the highest level. Inventive in his stroke play, he kept the scoreboard ticking over and the fielders on their toes until being cleaned up by a Dillon yorker. With dismissal of Tikolo in the 47th over the Kenyans did not have the resolve to go all the way and were all out for 232.