Underdone Kenya gear up for South African fury

Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Potchefstroom: Kenya's under-exposed cricketers are unlikely to test a fired-up South Africa when they meet in a World Cup group match at the North West Stadium on Wednesday. The South Africans are still smarting from a stunning three-run defeat at the hands of the West Indies in the tournament opener at Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday. Kenyan manager Mehmood Quraishy admitted it shaped up as an unequal contest.

"We are handicapped because we do not get enough international cricket," he said. Since being granted One-day International status after the 1996 World Cup, when they caused one of the tournament's great upsets by defeating the West Indies, the Kenyans have played only 51 matches. "That is very little compared to the other teams," said Quraishy. "We are not getting enough games." In the year leading up to the World Cup, Kenya has played nine matches, losing eight and having one no-result against Zimbabwe.

One of its defeats was by 176 runs against South Africa at the ICC Trophy, extending its record against the tournament host to eight losses in as many matches. "We would like to improve on our previous performances," said Quraishy, who pointed out Kenya had defeated two South African provincial teams, Border and Eastern Province, in warm-up matches last week. South Africa's defeat on Sunday means the plan to rotate players in its squad will be modified.

All four men who did not play against the West Indies were initially expected to play against Kenya but skipper Shaun Pollock said after the West Indies match that the first priority was to get points on the board. Some adjustment of the South African side is still likely, however, as even a below- strength team should be able to beat Kenya, even though the Kenyans have a core of experienced players.

Potchefstroom is usually a high-scoring ground. South African opening batsman Herschelle Gibbs hit a career-best 153 against Bangladesh at the North West Stadium here in October. Jonty Rhodes, South Africa's ace fielder and middle-order batsman, had an X-ray on Monday after aggravating an old injury to his right index finger while fielding against the West Indies. But no serious damage was revealed and he was able to bat in a voluntary practice on Monday afternoon.

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