In most respects, the second ICC Knockout, staged in Kenya, was a tremendous success. Like the 1996 World Cup, it threw up a parade of cavalier strokeplay, and a champion drawn from the ranks of cricket's underdogs. "New Zealand's never got to a final before, let alone won it," enthused a jubilant Chris Cairns, who overcame a knee injury to play the decisive innings - a majestic 102 not out - in the final. Yet the Black Caps' achievement was no breakthrough to a new era: their next 13 one-dayers produced 11 defeats and just one win.
In fact, the biggest strides were arguably made by India, the eventual runners-up, who defeated Australia and South Africa, the two favourites. Their captain, Sourav Ganguly, had an extraordinary tournament, scoring 348 runs at 116.00 and clearing the boundary 12 times. But it was the emergence of three dynamic debutants, Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Vijay Dahiya, that really made India's fortnight.
Since the previous ICC Knockout - the mini World Cup played by the then nine Test nations in Dhaka two years earlier - Bangladesh and Kenya had joined the roll of entrants. They were knocked out in the first round, along with the fading West Indians. Sri Lanka's triumph over West Indies was short-lived, however, and they succumbed to Pakistan, who later lost their semi-final to New Zealand despite a second successive century from Saeed Anwar. Zimbabwe had just won a one-day series at home to New Zealand, but could not match them in the quarter-finals; England hiccuped after their successful summer, conceding 232 to Bangladesh and then scoring only 182 against South Africa.
If there had been a prize for the man of the tournament, Andy Atkinson, the former Warwickshire groundsman, would have deserved to win it. His stewardship transformed the Gymkhana Club's pitches, once notorious for their sluggishness, into strips of sprung steel. Their pace and bounce, coupled with Nairobi's thin air and short boundaries, helped produce some ballistic batting displays - especially from Ganguly, whose monumental straight hitting belied his slim shoulders.
The only sadness was the lack of local interest, and the suggestions of match-fixing that subsequently surfaced in the Anti-Corruption Unit's report to the ICC. While India's matches attracted decent numbers of ex-pats, indigenous Kenyans were noticeable by their absence throughout. Critics blamed high ticket prices (up to £20) and excessive bureaucracy. One thing was certain: the tournament should have done more to promote cricket in East Africa. It will take a fat slice of the $US13 million profit to make up for that.
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