April 5, 2003

Marillier anchors Zimbabwe for a tense win

The last time these two sides met, Zimbabwe were humiliated by seven wickets, allowing Kenya a passage to the World Cup semi-final. It was revenge time for Zimbabwe under lights at Sharjah, as they survived a minor hiccup and ran away winners by five wickets, getting their first points of this tournament.

The star of the day for Zimbabwe was Doug Marillier, who cracked a splendid 100 - the first century of his one-day career. His knock was magnificently paced, and allowed Zimbabwe to make light of a challenging target of 226, especially after they had struggled at the start of their innings. Marillier's 130-run stand for the third wicket with Grant Flower (59) turned the tide, and ensured that Collins Obuya's excellent spell - 2 for 31 from 10 overs - didn't translate into a Kenyan victory.

Kenya began their defence of the target with their usual enthusiasm and discipline. Martin Suji and Thomas Odoyo frustrated Marillier and Craig Wishart, bowling consecutive maidens and allowing just 55 runs in the first 15 overs.

Collins Obuya then came on and struck twice in quick succession, first having Wishart caught by Steve Tikolo at slip (56 for 1), and then taking a return catch off Gavin Rennie (68 for 2). Flighting the ball and getting appreciable turn, Obuya consistently pitched on good length and troubled all the batsmen. However, the Marillier-Flower partnership gradually turned things around.

Marillier, circumspect at the start, played none of the audacious slogs which have characterised his batting in ODIs. His first fifty took all of 82 balls - compared to 57 for his next - and though it included a few powerful drives and pulls, there were plenty of dot-balls too.

None of this bothered Marillier, though. With Flower timing the ball sweetly and rotating the strike, Zimbabwe's innings soon got a move-on. Flower completed 6000 runs in ODIs, and then proceeded to sweep Maurice Odumbe and Tikolo to distraction. Marillier struck both of them for six, and an asking rate which had climbed to more than a run a ball quickly descended.

But Kenya weren't finished. Flower and Marillier were both snared by Tony Suji - who was introduced in the 45th over of the innings - in eight balls, and when Andy Blignaut hoicked Odoyo straight to Joseph Angara at midwicket, Zimbabwe needed 18 from 15 balls.

Heath Streak, aided by some uncharacteristically sloppy work in the field - Jimmy Kamande twice misfielded at long-off - made sure that Zimbabwe didn't mess it up. The end came when Streak tonked Tony Suji for six over long-off.

Earlier, Zimbabwe had put in a disciplined performance in the field to restrict Kenya to 225. Kenya's innings was characterised by plenty of batsmen getting starts, but no-one going on to convert that into anything substantial.

David Obuya clunked his way to 57 - his first fifty in one-day internationals - while Odoyo held the innings together at the end with a workmanlike 46, but the rest of the batting fell away after promising a lot. Kenya reached the four-an-over mark in the 26th over, with Tikolo and David Obuya going strong, but then lost three wickets in the next 12 overs, and never quite regained the momentum.

David Obuya and Brijal Patel put together 52 for the second wicket after Kennedy Obuya was nailed early on by Streak, but the best phase of Kenya's innings came when Tikolo joined David Obuya in a 59-run stand.

Obuya swished and missed plenty of times, but also connected with a few meaty blows, including an effortless six over backward square leg off Douglas Hondo. Tikolo's was a classy knock. He struck only two fours in his 37, but rotated the strike superbly with deft flicks and fluent drives. However, the Kenyan innings began to unravel when David Obuya hoicked Raymond Price to Gavin Rennie at long-off (114 for 3).

Tikolo was dismissed against the run of play, top-edging a sweep off Price to Marillier at square leg (131 for 5), while Odumbe - coming off an excellent World Cup - popped a return catch to Rennie.

Odoyo and Hitesh Modi put the innings back on track with a sensible partnership, eschewing strokeplay and working the singles around to ensure that Kenya batted through their 50 overs. But ultimately, the total of 225 turned out to be about 15 too few.

S Rajesh is sub editor of Wisden.com in India.