Zimbabwe's inexperience cruelly exposed by Kenya
Kenya 134 (Rainsford 3-16) beat Zimbabwe 69 (Ongondo 4-14, Odoyo 3-13, Suji 2-16) by 65 runs
Zimbabwe's fragile claims to international cricketing credibility suffered another blow at Harare Sports Club in front of around 500 spectators when they were bowled out by Kenya for 69 in the third of this five-match one-day series. They now have to win Friday and Saturday's back-to-back games to avoid a humiliating defeat.
It had all seemed to be going well for the young Zimbabwe side when they bowled Kenya out for 134 on a ground left sodden by heavy rain which delayed the start by two-and-a-half hours. That it started at all was only due to liberal use of sawdust and the will of the two captains.
Kenya won the toss but struggled on a pitch which offered considerable help to the seamers, and Maurice Ouma twice edged Anthony Ireland through the slips in his opening over. In all, four chances were spilt by the close cordon and that was costly in a low-scoring game. Kenya's batsmen all struggled with their timing, and it was a sign of how difficult the conditions were that even Steve Tikolo, the one class act on display, skied a leading edge into the covers.
Tanmay Mishra, who is quickly establishing himself as a batsman to reckon with, and Jimmy Kamande put together an important sixth-wicket stand of 32, coming together at 56 for 5, and they and David Obuya recognised the need for grafting rather than hitting. Mishra fell to a neat stumping by Brendan Taylor - catching aside, Zimbabwe's fielding was excellent - and Terry Duffin changed his bowlers intelligently.
Kenya's total of 134 in 42.2 overs appeared poor, but the conditions favoured the bowlers and they knew that last October they successfully defended 117 against a Zimbabwe A side led by Heath Streak at the nearby Academy ground.
The lack of experience of Zimbabwe's batsmen, who had played so well in winning the first match last Saturday, was all too evident. Piet Rinke, who had bludgeoned two decent scores in the first two matches, showed how far short of international standard he is - he charged down the pitch to the first ball of the innings and skewed it over mid-off, and next delivery holed out to midwicket. It highlighted the gaping holes left by defections and retirements.
The batsmen appeared to have learned nothing from Kenya's cautious approach, and almost all adopted a policy of all-out attack. Taylor and Charles Coventry went for their strokes, and coming together after Man of the Match Thomas Odoyo had reduced Kenya to 25 for 3, seemed to be turning the game. But Coventry drove straight back at Peter Ongondo and he parried the shot and threw himself on his back to catch the rebound.
At 65 for 4 the game was still wide open, but Zimbabwe lost six wickets for five runs as Tony Suji and Ongondo routed the tail. Their innings had lasted less than half their allotted overs and while the conditions accounted for the low scoring, some of the Zimbabwe batting showed glaring technical flaws. One was left fearing for what West Indies might do to them in a little over seven weeks' time.
Kevin Curran, Zimbabwe's coach, was in no mood to praise the Kenyans. "We bowled particularly well," he said. "To restrict them to 134 was exceptional for our bowlers but the batsman played badly. Kenya have an ordinary attack. We were not bowled out, we gave it away. There is no excuse for playing like we did. The players can only blame themselves."
Roger Harper, Kenya's coach, paid tribute to his players and downplayed suggestions that their opponents had been weakened by recent disputes. "I do not know about the problems in Zimbabwe," he said. "I concentrate on the Kenya team. All I know is we were playing against a Zimbabwe team."
Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo