Canada v Kenya, Group C, St Lucia March 14, 2007

Class will out

Maurice Ouma hits hard and high on his way to a fifty © Getty Images
The last four years have been a rollercoaster ride for Kenyan cricket, and as recently as 2005 it seemed quite feasible that the 2003 World Cup semi-finalists might not even have a side to take to the Caribbean.

The internal shambles was resolved with the election of a new board in May 2005, and under Roger Harper, who was appointed coach early in 2006, the team has gelled into a cohesive unit just in time for this tournament.

The draw was kind to them, pitting them against Canada, who they have easily beaten several times in Associate events in the month before this competition started. A win in the opener would leave them needing to beat either New Zealand - a tough ask - or England - far from being out of the question - to make the Super Eights.

In the end, the Canadians were seen off with ease, but the early exchanges favoured them as they batted confidently until the spinners came on and took the pace off the ball. Canada were suddenly all at sea and from 102 for 2 they lost eight wickets for 97 runs.

Kenya's three slow men are as varied a bunch as you could hope to meet. Steve Tikolo, their superveteran, bowls much as Chris Gayle does, offering nothing and inviting the batsman to do all the work; Hiren Varaiya, is a slow left-armer with an old head on young shoulders, and really looks a class act; Jimmy Kamande was a seamer in 1999 who fell foul of the authorities for chucking and who reinvented himself as a spinner. Between them they bowled 29 overs and took 5 for 78.

Canada had to bowl Kenya out to have a chance. Instead, their seamers served up a rich diet of wides to relieve all the pressure and their fielders offered little support and fell apart as the game went on. The Kenyans were enthusiastic and assured in the field, Canada were listless and loose. It wasn't the difference between the two sides but it certainly made Kenya's job easier.

Canada now face two matches which they will probably lose. Even if they were to produce a major upset, they would still be heading home after the group stage.

Kenya, however, will really believe that they can go further. They have some class batsmen - Tanmay Mishra looks to be one to follow - and a well-balanced bowling attack. They won't reach the semi-finals again - the skewed points system which helped them in 2003 has mercifully been ditched - but don't write them off.

And whereas in the past most neutrals have seen them as a one-man band - Tikolo and a supporting cast - they are anything but. He is still the cohesive force that binds them together, but they have more than enough other talent to see them home even if he fails.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo