Vijay Bharadwaj exhibited an admirable degree of temperament and technique to pull India from a tight spot against Kenya. Playing only his second One Day International match, this lanky, bespectacled middle-order batsman lent respectability to his side's total of 220 for 7 in 50 overs in the LG Cup four-nation Series on Wednesday in Nairobi.
Later, he came on to bowl his off-breaks and returned figures of 7-0-38-3 as Kenya went reeling to 162 all out in 50 overs. Bharadwaj was the "man of the match". Kenya won the toss and elected to field on a wet pitch that was drying out. That decision paid dividends as the Indian batsmen struggled to maintain an impressive run rate. India limped its way to 136 for four in 40 overs. Vijay Bharadwaj joined his skipper Ajay Jadeja at 134 for four (38.5 overs).
The two changed the complexion of the game through some intelligent batsmanship. The pair's brisk running between the wicket and ability to smash the bad balls to the fence (a couple of them went over) brought refreshing air to the Indian dressing room. Bharadwaj and Jadeja put on 55 runs in only seven overs. When the pair looked determined to go on till the end, it was separated. An over-ambitious Jadeja was run out to a throw from the point by Maurice Odumbe.
He made 31 off 32 balls with two sixes. Bharadwaj continued to dictate terms and was there till the end. His 41 not out came off 30 balls and contained three fours and a six. The earlier batsmen struggled against some imaginative bowling by the Kenyans who did remarkably well to maintain a nagging line and length. Sadagopan Ramesh, with his limited range of technique, took 117 balls for his 50 (4x4). Sourav Ganguly's 21 came of 38 balls (2x4, 1x6). Rahul Dravid made 30 off 56 balls.
Before Bharadwaj joined Jadeja, Nikhil Chopra made 13 off 12. Then it was all left to Jadeja and Bharadwaj to smash the rhythm out of the Kenyan attack. Apart from the commendable show by the Kenyan bowlers in the first 40overs and blistering pace set by Bharadwaj and Jadeja, yet another highlight of this innings was the superb fielding and catching by the home team players.
Thomas Odoyo took a well-judged catch to send back Ganguly. Kennedy Otieno effected a lightning stumping to dismiss Ramesh. Tikolo and Odumbe came up with spectacular return catches to get rid of Nikhil Chopra and Sunil Joshi, respectively.
Kenya was off to a disastrous start. Opener Kennedy Otieno snicked the very first ball of the innings from Venkatesh Prasad into the gloves of MSK Prasad. Soon, against an inspired Indian attack, Kenya was reduced to 76 for six in 29.4.
Thereafter, courageous efforts by Thomas Odoyo (33 off 60) and Tony Suji (27 off 50) were mainly responsible for Kenya playing all the 50 overs. This seventh wicket pair added 57 runs. In fact the last wicket fell in the last ball of the innings.
Off-spinner Nikhil Chopra beat and bowled J.Ababu. Bharadwaj apart, Venkatesh Prasad (3 for 26), Mohanty (2 for 25) and Chopra (2 for 18) were also among wickets.