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October 31, 2008
South Africa have far sterner tests on the horizon - tests with and without a capital 't' - but they avoided a potential season-opening howler by walloping their neighbours Kenya by 159 runs in the first of two ODIs in Bloemfontein. There were contrasting fifties from JP Duminy and Jacques Kallis while Johan Botha chipped in with four economical wickets.
The scoreline does an adequate job of summarising the vast gap between the two African nations; South Africa cruised past 300 without much trouble, before Kenya's top order promised a little but delivered rather less. It is a sticky issue in Kenya cricket that South Africa, their nearest and dearest, aren't quite as helpful as, say, the ECB are with Scotland and Ireland. Nevertheless, there was no mercy shown by a full-strength South Africa who outplayed Kenya from the outset. 2008 has not been a successful or happy year for Kenya, and it seems unlikely South Africa will lessen their determination for the second ODI on Sunday.
Kenya have passed 300 three times in their history, against Bangladesh, Scotland and Bermuda, but their highest total against a top-flight nation remains the 265 for 5 they made against India a decade ago. There was little chance of rectifying that particular record today, and Kenya soon lost their young prodigy Seren Waters for 15. Alex Obanda misjudged a run to Justin Ontong - not quite in Jonty Rhodes' class, but still damn quick - to send Maurice Ouma packing, and when Steve Tikolo was trapped in front, Kenya were already sinking at 95 for 4. Obanda briefly shone with 38, lifting Morne Morkel over midwicket for a vast six, before he was beaten by Duminy's quicker ball.
David Obuya did his best to shove Kenya past 150, poking singles into the gaps and even smacking Monde Zondeki for six over square-leg, but these were the dying embers of an innings that never truly caught fire. Botha's immaculate line earned him the fine figures of 4 for 19 from 10 overs while Duminy showed his flexibility with 3 for 31.
And it was Duminy who shone with the bat, too. Hashim Amla fell cheaply to the probing Peter Ongondo - always a reliable bowler even on decent surfaces - while Herschelle Gibbs scythed a muscular 45-ball 44. South Africa needed a big innings, however, it came from Kallis and Duminy. As ever, Duminy was brilliantly quick between the wickets though never afraid to dispatch the poor ball. Elijah Otieno offered him a short gift on his legs which was worked through midwicket; Hiren Varaiya was reverse-swept with power for four more and was later nudged around to fine leg to bring up Duminy's fifty.
Varaiya fought back impressively, however, to have Kallis caught low by Obanda for 71, ending his match-seizing partnership of 108 with Duminy. Still, at 211 for 4 and with the last 10-over blast remaining, South Africa were in an excellent position and as Duminy worked the ball into the gaps with ease, Kenya's fielders began to tire. He finally fell, ten short of a hundred, attempting to lift Nehemiah Odhiambo over long-off.
Mark Boucher capitalised on Duminy's work with an exhilarating late-innings assault of 57 from 30, lifting three sixes. He got going with a flick over square-leg off Ongondo before an even bigger smite off Varaiya sailed over long-off. His third, an impetuous heave over midwicket, brought up his fifty from just 25 balls as South Africa scored 86 from their last ten. Their 336 for 7 was ample.
The two sides meet again for the second ODI on Sunday in Kimberley.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge