Bangladesh v Kenya series preview

Kenya realistic about chances against surgant Bangladesh

Martin Williamson

March 16, 2006

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Mohammad Ashraful: Bangladesh's man to watch © AFP
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After a tour of Zimbabwe which slipped under all but the sharpest radar, Kenya will be keen to make an impression in their four-ODI series against Bangladesh which starts on Friday. It's a much higher-profile tour, and one against a side on the up as opposed to one struggling to retain international credibility.

Kenya did well in Zimbabwe, drawing the five-match series 2-2 after the final game was washed out. Only once, in the fourth match, were they outclassed, while their other defeat was put down to jet lag as they were forced to play their opening match less than a day after arriving and without any chance to practice. Both Roger Harper, their coach, and Steve Tikolo, their captain, said that given the right preparation, they would have easily beaten the Zimbabweans.

But Tikolo is realistic about his side's chances this time round, pointing out that the international exposure for a side kept in the wilderness since the 2003 World Cup is as important as the outcome. He knows plenty about his opponents as well, having played regularly in Bangladesh club cricket for almost a decade.

Bangladesh should win this series at a canter, and their performances in the just-finished series at home to Sri Lanka will have further boosted their burgeoning confidence. Their win in the second ODI inspired wild celebrations across the country, and they should dispose of keen but out-of-practice opponents with something to spare. Whatever the ICC rankings might claim, they can now rightly claim to be No. 9 in the world by quite some way, and rather than looking down, they now have West Indies at No. 8 in their sights.

Their man of the moment is Mohammad Ashraful, who scored a gorgeous century on the opening day of the Test series against Sri Lanka, and who at the age of 21, is beginning at last to come to terms with the talent that made him, in September 2001, the youngest centurion in Test history, when he cracked 114 on debut against Sri Lanka in Colombo. And Bangladesh's bowling has a greater cutting edge these days as well, with the tall and aggressive paceman, Shahadat Hossain, coming into his own in their last Test at Bogra, where he took a career-best 5 for 86.



Peter Ongondo: bowled well in Zimbabwe © AFP
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Kenya's bowling, on the other hand, could be their Achilles Heel. Their seamers lack penetration, although Peter Ongondo and Thomas Odoyo both showed good form in Zimbabwe, but overall they may struggle to contain. And although their out-of-sorts World Cup star, the allrounder Collins Obuya, has been recalled after a spell under the eye of Terry Jenner, reports suggest he is far from ready to resume international cricket. The batting will, as always, lean on Tikolo, but Kennedy Otieno looked in good nick in Zimbabwe.

One player worth keeping an eye on is 18-year-old Tanmay Mishra who made his debut on that tour. Although he did not set the world alight, he showed enough glimpses of class to suggest he could well have what it takes to succeed at the highest level.

It's a shame that what could be a winning series for the home side could be played out in front of empty stands. Bangladesh is a cricket-mad country - look no further than the massive attendances during the 2004 Under-19 World Cup - but this series has failed to capture the imagination and ticket sales are sluggish to non existent. That the public have not been tempted is partially due to the perceived weakness of the opponents, partially due to the eyebrow-raising decision to increase prices from those charged for the Sri Lanka matches, but largely because of the glut of international cricket.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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