Harare: Two of the World Cup's outsiders will begin a series of three internationals on Sunday that will have a double meaning for them both.
Zimbabwe and Kenya are not only preparing for the tournament involving 14 countries that will culminate in South Africa next February and March. They are also seeking a more long-term status in the game. The Zimbabweans, brought into the Test arena 10 years ago as the ninth country, have just been comprehensively whitewashed by Pakistan in two Tests and five internationals. This will serve to keep them well down in the rankings. But defeat by Kenya would still be untenable for them and would represent a major setback just two months before the World Cup gets under way. Kenya believes it will stake a claim for Test status before very long, provided it can continue to show positive results against some of the best. But it has played only four internationals this year and therefore need much more experience, both as part of their cup preparations and for their hopes of becoming the 11th Test nation and the third in Africa. The 10th was Bangladesh. Beating Zimbabwe would improve its prospects considerably and so it is sure to be on the offensive. Zimbabwe, which has some honour to defend, will be determined not to let that happen. It points to the unavailability of five front line bowlers during the Pakistan tour as the main reason for such a comprehensive thrashing. Kenya came close to a shock victory over Australia in the recent ICC tournament at Colombo, scoring 205 and only losing in the last over. But it was decisively beaten in three other internationals at that time. Zimbabwe will need to show a considerable improvement in the three internationals against its near neighbours. The team will not be selected until Saturday, following the Kenya vs Zimbabwe "A" match here, but it will most likely include the Flower brothers Andy and Grant, captain Alistair Campbell even though he is struggling to make runs, Henry Olonga, Douglas Hondo, Mark Vermeulen, Dion Ebrahim and Tatenda Taibu. All-rounders Andy Blignaut and Guy Whittall may be included if they pass fitness tests. The final place could be filled from, as many as six or seven other possibles, but either Travis Friend, Dion Ebrahim or Doug Marillier might be favoured. Kenya will rely heavily on their captain Steve Tiloko, who scored 60 against Australia and 93 against West Indies in Sri Lanka, and Maurice Odumbe, who took 50 off the Aussies. Kenya (from): Steve Tiloko (captain), Thomas Migai, Maurice Odumbe, Kennedy Obuya, David Obuya, Martin Suji, Otiendo Ondik, Brijal Patel, Ravindu Shah, Hitesh Modi, Joseph Angara, Peter Ogondo and Jimmy Kamande. Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan), Mumtaz Ahmed Esat (Zimbabwe). Match referee: Dennis Lindsay (South Africa).
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