Kenya v ZImbabwe, 3rd ODI, Nairobi January 31, 2009

Utseya leads Zimbabwe to series win

Cricinfo staff

Zimbabwe 236 for 6 (Utseya 68*, Chigumbura 43) beat Kenya 234 (C Obuya 55, Cremer 4-39) by four wickets

Prosper Utseya was Zimbabwe's match-winner with his maiden ODI half century © AFP

Prosper Utseya played an outstanding captain's innings to lead Zimbabwe to a series-clinching four-wicket win in the third ODI in Nairobi when the home side had looked on course to keep the contest alive. After battling hard to reach 234, Kenya took wickets at regular intervals but were thrown off course by Utseya, who made a career-best unbeaten 68, and a superbly-timed assault from wicketkeeper Forster Mutizwa as the victory came with 10 balls to spare.

Elton Chigumbura, who has been so impressive in this series, also played his part with a different style of innings to the shot-filled efforts of the previous games. He came in with Zimbabwe tottering on 103 for 5 but compiled 43 off 50 balls to put the chase back in the balance. However, when he fell, Zimbabwe still needed 85 off 11 overs with batting resources running out.

Mutizwa, playing just his third ODI, changed the game in a one-over assault on Peter Ongondo, who had been extremely tight until his ninth over went for 26. Mutizwa hit two sixes over deep midwicket and three further boundaries to reduce a target of over eight-an-over down to a run-a-ball.

When required, Utseya also found the boundary and two fours followed by a six took him to his maiden ODI half-century off 50 balls. The stuffing had been well and truly knocked out of Kenya, who had seen a match-winning position slip away rapidly.

They had done so much right for 40 overs with a marked improvement in their bowling from the first two matches when Zimbabwe passed 300. Although the Zimbabwe openers played their shots, Ongondo removed them both in an impressive opening burst. When the in-form Stuart Matsikenyeri drove a hard return catch to Rajesh Bhudia and Malcolm Waller was well caught at second slip, Zimbabwe were 68 for 4.

Steve Tikolo struck to increase the pressure when he removed Keith Dabengwa and when Chigumbura fell after doing the hard work Kenya were moving closer to victory. Utseya, though, has always appeared a very mature cricketer for someone of just 23 and didn't panic in a tough situation, although it was Mutizwa's blast that swung the momentum.

Kenya's batting had again struggled as legspinner Graeme Cremer took four wickets, but they managed to recover from 95 for 5 thanks to Collins Obuya's 55. Cremer struck at vital times throughout the innings, including a spell of three in six balls, beginning by removing Alex Obanda when he lofted to long-on for a hard-fought 49. Then in his next over he removed the key scalp of Tikolo, who was beaten by one that skidded through. Two balls later and the shoddy side of Kenya's batting was again on display when Jimmy Kamande pulled lazily to midwicket.

After two games of watching Zimbabwe rack up totals in excess of 300, Kenya were grateful to be batting first on this occasion. However, any positive vibes lasted precisely one ball as Seren Waters was caught behind for a duck off Christopher Mpofu. It followed Waters' third-ball duck two days ago and Kenya were immediately on the back foot.

Mpofu was impressive with the new ball and Kenya had to fight hard to establish a platform. Zimbabwe have relied heavily on spin during this series - and they used five of varying styles in this innings - and it was the introduction of Ray Price that snapped a promising second-wicket stand when Kennedy Otieno dragged the ball via his pads as he tried to sweep.

Cremer was soon making his mark, but Obuya and Maurice Ouma stopped the slide with a stand of 79 in 14 overs. They showed what can be achieved with sensible batting, carefully accumulating singles and dispatching the bad balls. But just as they had a base from which to expand, Ouma picked out long-on against Utseya.

Obuya went to his fifty off 59 balls before becoming Cremer's fourth wicket as Zimbabwe's fielders continued to hold their catches in the deep. For much of the second innings it appeared as though he'd given his team enough, but in the end Zimbabwe's growing confidence proved too much for the fallible Kenya.