Meril International Tournament, 1998-99

This was not altogether a happy competition for the hosts, Bangladesh. The idea was that, eight weeks before the World Cup, their team would gain valuable experience - and much-needed confidence - by playing Kenya, whom they had beaten in their only senior one-day international victory, and Zimbabwe.

Half the plan worked: they got the experience, but missed out on the confidence. Despite home advantage, Bangladesh's reputation as the weakest one-day nation was reinforced. In an exact re-run of these teams' last triangular - in Nairobi, in October 1997 - Zimbabwe won all their games, Bangladesh lost all theirs, and Kenya won or lost depending upon the opposition. It was even more emphatic than that. In just one game was the outcome in the balance going into the final ten overs, and that was in the last preliminary match, when nothing was at stake and when Zimbabwe were resting a couple of key players. Of the five games won by the team batting first, the average margin of victory was almost 120 runs.

For Zimbabwe, things went smoothly. All the batsmen got runs, especially the Flower brothers - both passed 3,000 runs in one-day internationals during the competition - while the bowlers performed competently. All the same, such a gentle workout was hardly ideal preparation for the World Cup.

Kenya underlined their credentials as a talented batting side - Steve Tikolo and Kennedy Otieno scored hundreds - but their attack struggled to make much impact. Bangladesh's failings were even more pronounced, though they could at least celebrate their first century in limited-overs internationals, hit by Mehrab Hossain on his way to 197 runs, more than anyone except Andy and Grant Flower.

Match reports for

1st Match: Kenya v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Mar 19, 1999
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2nd Match: Bangladesh v Kenya at Dhaka, Mar 20, 1999
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3rd Match: Bangladesh v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Mar 21, 1999
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4th Match: Kenya v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Mar 23, 1999
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5th Match: Bangladesh v Kenya at Dhaka, Mar 24, 1999
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6th Match: Bangladesh v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Mar 25, 1999
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Final: Kenya v Zimbabwe at Dhaka, Mar 27, 1999
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© John Wisden & Co