South Africa's new coach, Graham Ford, guided his side to the LG Cup, the third senior one-day international tournament held in Kenya. The other participants were India, playing their fourth limited-overs competition in six weeks - and on three different continents - Zimbabwe, and the hosts, Kenya. It was rated a reasonable success, and attendances were noticeably up on two years earlier, when Zimbabwe had won the President's Cup in front of near-empty houses. The Kenyan Cricket Association had failed to secure the participation of India on that occasion, and their presence this time made all the difference.
When India were involved, the ground was full to capacity, and many would-be spectators climbed trees outside the Gymkhana Club to glimpse their heroes. Kenya may have been the home nation, but it was India who enjoyed the most partisan support, since almost all the spectators came from the Asian population. Some lessons had been learned from the President's Cup, though, and schoolchildren - predominantly African - were granted free admission to less popular matches.
Not that they would have found the cricket especially exciting. The one tense game was the first, between Kenya and Zimbabwe, and even that warmed up only for the last ten overs. Kenya lost their three games, but were never humiliated. They batted with distinction - Ravindu Shah and Steve Tikolo both hit half-centuries - and, more encouragingly, they bowled well. They took seven wickets in each game; and on both occasions the Kenyans put their opponents in to bat, they restricted them to 220. Even so, no home player took more than four wickets in the competition. They gave debuts to two young seam bowlers, Josephat Ababu and Peter Ochieng, and both turned in tidy performances.
After a promising World Cup, Zimbabwe fell significantly short of expectations, and lost heavily to the Test-playing nations. The top order made runs, but never dominated the bowling the way opponents dominated theirs. Both the tournament's centuries, by Lance Klusener and Sourav Ganguly, were scored against their attack, weakened by the continued absence of Heath Streak.
India were also without a leading light: Sachin Tendulkar was in Australia consulting a specialist on his problematic lower back. Even so, they coasted through the preliminary rounds with three polished performances. Their spin bowlers proved too much for South Africa - Sunil Joshi claimed five for six, though he could not take another wicket in the tournament - while their batsmen, Ganguly in particular, savaged Zimbabwe. Vijay Bharadwaj, an all-rounder making his international debut, was the find of the tournament. Dismissed only once in four innings, he totalled 89 at precisely a run a ball, and his off-spin brought ten wickets at 12.20.
An under-strength South African side - Allan Donald, Gary Kirsten and Daryll Cullinan were all unavailable - looked rusty in their first match, but peaked when it mattered. Klusener continued his phenomenal World Cup batting form in the early part of the tournament: after the second game, against Zimbabwe, he had hit 575 runs in his past 14 one-day international innings, at an average of 287.50. And when Klusener failed in the final, Herschelle Gibbs stepped up. The bowling was carried by Shaun Pollock, quietly assisted by off-spinner Derek Crookes.
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