Zimbabwe v Kenya, 2nd ODI, Bulawayo February 26, 2006

Stunning Tikolo powers Kenya level

Kenya 284 for 7 (Tikolo 98, Mishra 46, Ireland 3-46) beat Zimbabwe 205 (Rinke 54, Meth 53, Ongondo 3-26) by 79 runs
Scorecard

What a difference a day makes. Last night, Zimbabwe were celebrating a comprehensive eight-wicket win over Kenya in the opening ODI of the five-match series. After months of internal turmoil, it seemed that Zimbabwe cricket was on the mend. But a crushing 79-run defeat in the second game at Bulwayo reopened all the doubts as to whether this raw Zimbabwe side has what it takes to compete at the highest level.

It was the highly experienced Steve Tikolo, Kenya's captain and a man with more ODIs under his belt than Zimbabwe's top nine combined, who laid the platform for the win with 98 off 75 balls after Kenya had slipped to 24 for 2. Tikolo departed on 173 for 4, and yesterday Kenya's tail had folded limply. Today they feasted on a tiring attack, and 19-year-old Tanmay Mishra, who made his international debut yesterday, impressed most with 46. Zimbabwe's bowlers looked ill-at-ease, and Blessing Mahwire, who should have provided a cutting edge, was so wayward he was not even called on to bowl his quota of overs.

A crowd of about 1000 - double that of yesterday, despite dark clouds which have hung over the city all week - were quietened by the loss of two quick Zimbabwe wickets, but then Piet Rinke continued the attacking form he had shown 24 hours earlier with a 47-ball 54. But he was the second of three wickets for Peter Ongondo - who finished with 3 for 26 - and the lack of experience and match practice showed as Zimbabe's raw middle order crumbled.

The crowd, which had got behind the home side throughout, were rewarded with a determined 53 from Supersub Keegan Meth, but all that did was to delay Kenya's celebrations and reduce Zimbabwe's margin of defeat.

But make no mistake, this was a comprehensive loss and one which only underlined what a massive task Zimbabwe have ahead of them. Even if they win this series, their next hurdle is a seven-ODI series in the Caribbean, and a West Indies side with problems of their own are hardly likely to go easy.

Kenya and Zimbabwe now trek back to Harare where they play three matches in four days, starting on Wednesday. There appears little between the sides, but much depends on whether Zimbabwe can overcome inexperience and a chronic lack of time in the middle. The weather - this has been a very wet few months in Zimbabwe - may also have a part to play.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo