PSO Tri-Nation Tournament, 2002

Paul Coupar and Martin Blake

This tournament was everything its organisers, the Pakistan Cricket Board, hoped it would not be - staged thousands of miles from home, commercially unsuccessful and utterly dominated by Australia. Pakistan planned the triangular competition as the centrepiece of their celebrations to mark 50 years of international cricket. But jollity took second place to politics. Australia refused to travel to Pakistan, citing safety concerns, fears given terrifying substance in May, when a huge car bomb smashed windows of the Karachi hotel where the New Zealand squad were staying. Endless alternative venues were considered - England, Kenya, Morocco, Queensland, Sharjah and Sri Lanka - before the PCB plumped for Kenya. But the sponsor, Pakistan State Oil, did not clamber aboard until the eve of the first match, and a neutral venue meant meagre profits for the cash-strapped board.

The tournament's prestige took a further dent when New Zealand pulled out, to be replaced by Kenya. New Zealand Cricket claimed they had only had an "informal chat" about playing, but the PCB insisted there had been "an agreement in principle" and, by December, were pursuing NZC for compensation. Having trumpeted a showpiece, the PCB ended up with a low-key warm-up for the ICC Champions Trophy and a looming legal wrangle.

Things hardly improved for the Pakistanis - board or team - when they finally made it to Nairobi. The teams quickly settled into a cast-iron hierarchy: Pakistan comfortably had the edge over Kenya, and Australia twice annihilated Pakistan - first by 224 runs (Pakistan's worst-ever defeat in terms of runs), then by nine wickets. Australia were set to cruise the final too, until it rained and any chance of a result was washed away.

Two images of Australian dominance were seared into the memories of fans and opponents alike: Glenn McGrath's surgical probing outside the off stump, and Matthew Hayden's blazing bat. McGrath was parsimony personified, conceding a miserly two and a half an over and taking nine wickets at 8.77. Jason Gillespie snatched 15, but at 4.34 an over. If McGrath was the scalpel, Hayden was the bludgeon. His brutal 128- ball 146 scattered spectators, ensured Australia's first destruction of Pakistan and set the tone for the tournament. In all, he sledgehammered 265 in four innings - three of them unbeaten - at a harum-scarum rate of 106.42, and his team-mates matched the pace, roaring along at almost six an over. It would have been higher still, but Allan Border (standing in as coach after John Buchanan hurt his back before the tournament) and Ricky Ponting sent in tailenders before batsmen in the dead match against Kenya. With McGrath and Gillespie rested, it was as if an even-handed PE teacher had decreed that it was time to let the other boys have a turn. Kenya nearly made them pay for their complacency, but it was their only hiccough.

Pakistan had recently beaten the Australians in the Tower Super Challenge, but here they were at their desultory worst. Yousuf Youhana was sent home before a ball was bowled, ostensibly for failing to turn up at nets; Youhana insisted he had been doing individual work on an injured shoulder, and the incident was never properly explained. Without him, the batting was an established batsman light, and only Misbah-ul-Haq improved his standing, hitting 139 in three innings. More unusual than their mercurial batting was Pakistan's prodigal bowling. Hayden did criminal damage to several sets of figures, and all went for more than four and a half an over.

Brought in as a sparring partner for their two heavyweight opponents, Kenya punched above their weight. Their bowling was tight, with Maurice Odumbe's off-breaks going for less than four an over and Martin Suji's medium-pace only two and a half. But their batting, traditionally strong, failed to ignite and they reached the 44th over just once. Competent enough to avoid humiliation, they lacked the class to force a win

Match reports for

1st Match: Kenya v Pakistan at Nairobi (Gym), Aug 29, 2002
Report | Scorecard

2nd Match: Australia v Pakistan at Nairobi (Gym), Aug 30, 2002
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3rd Match: Kenya v Pakistan at Nairobi (Gym), Sep 1, 2002
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4th Match: Kenya v Australia at Nairobi (Gym), Sep 2, 2002
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5th Match: Australia v Pakistan at Nairobi (Gym), Sep 4, 2002
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6th Match: Kenya v Australia at Nairobi (Gym), Sep 5, 2002
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Final: Australia v Pakistan at Nairobi (Gym), Sep 7, 2002
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© John Wisden & Co