Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Duffin leads Zimbabwe to much-needed victory

Zimbabwe 231 for 2 (Taylor 60*, Masakadza 58*, Duffin 53) beat Kenya 227 for 9 (Otieno 74, Odoyo 54) by eight wickets

Zimbabwe recorded a much-needed eight-wicket win in the opening match in their five-ODI series against Kenya at Bulawayo. Set a target of 228, half centuries from Terry Duffin, Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor guided them home with six-and-a-half overs in hand. The only blot on Zimbabwe's day was the desultory crowd, with only around 500 spectators even though there was no admission charge.

Kenya won the toss and Kennedy Otieno got them off to a good start with 74, but from 116 for 1 they lost their way in the push for quick runs. Otieno fell to Keegan Meth, Zimbabwe's substitute who came in early for Edward Rainsford, who clearly showed out his frustration when he was pulled off. Meth is a brawny youngster with a slinging action and was one of the revelations at the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka, and for him to bowl three overs and concede just six runs shows he is player for the future. Thomas Odoyo hit a 52-ball 54, but that aside, Kenya's middle and lower order offered little.

Both Duffin and fellow opener Piet Rinke were making their one-day debuts, and Duffin was under more pressure as his appointment as captain had reportedly opened divides within the side. But both rose to the occasion. Duffin was happy to play the anchor role, while Rinke attacked from the off. He smashed two fours of Odoyo's first over and never changed his aggressive approach. A Heath Streak look alike, he gave away his wicket cheaply when he nicked Peter Ongondo to Otieno. His 42 came off just 40 balls with six fours.

Duffin struck eight fours, and when Rinke departed he took on the role of aggressor and he perished for 53 when he attempted an ambitious single and Nehemiah Odhiambo struck with a direct.

Masakadza was joined by Taylor and the two most experienced batsmen in the side produced a dazzling spell of strokeplay as Kenya tired. That was hardly surprising. They only arrived in the country yesterday morning after a journey which took 13 hours, and immediately traveled up to Bulawayo where their one net session was washed out. By the end Kenya could not check a rising run-rate.

Zimbabwe Cricket's decision not to charge came about after it decided it was going to be too costly for them to have tickets printed. That its generous gesture did not attract more people was probably down to the lack of any publicity in the local media in the city.

Ordinary fans were not the only ones who stayed away as the Matebeleland Cricket Association chairman Ethan Dube was a notable absentee. "I've got better things to do," he shrugged. "Cricket in Zimbabwe is just a joke and I am just not interested. I would rather take my son for fishing that waste my time watching cricket."

That was a sad reminder of the massive problems facing Zimbabwe. But for a few hours at Queens, cricket and not politics took centre stage.