Kenya finally gets to host a World Cup match

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Nairobi: Sri Lanka and Kenya renew their World Cup rivalry on Monday in a game that seems destined to be overshadowed by a huge security operation. The match venue of Nairobi Gymkhana, bordering the city's northern suburb estate of Park Road, where most of the Kenyan team players were born and bred, has already turned into a mini-fortress. An elite anti-terrorist unit from South Africa was flown into the country to reinforce the Kenyan police following an attack an Israeli-owned tourist hotel in the coastal city of Mombasa last November. Players' security concerns in the country forced the New Zealand cricket team to forfeit its match against Kenya in Nairobi last Friday.

But Sri Lanka saw no reason not to travel to Kenya - perhaps as a pay-back for the gesture its host showed when it honoured, against all security precautions, its preliminary match of the 1996 World Cup in the Sri Lankan town of Kandy. In that game, Sri Lanka piled up a record World Cup total of 395 for 5 from 50 overs with Aravinda de Silva contributing a career-best 145 off 115 balls. The Kenyans replied with their own World Cup best of 254 for 7 to lose by 144 runs and then reduced the gap four years later when they lost by only 47 runs at Southampton, England. It was that match, which saw the Kenyan pair of Maurice Odumbe and Alpesh Vadher share a world record sixth-wicket partnership of 161 runs.

Odumbe's captain's innings of 82 runs from 95 balls earned him the player-of-the- match, while Vadher, a certified public accountant, was unbeaten on 73. Kenyan skipper Steve Tikolo said he wanted to bat first on Monday and set the pace for Sri Lanka. "The wicket is even, has no grass and very ideal for a One-day game," said Tikolo. But he remains wary about the devastating form displayed by the 1996 World Cup champions in the three matches so far where they have beaten New Zealand and rolled over Bangladesh and Canada. Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya, who scored a century against New Zealand, said he will not under-rate Kenya.

"Every team that competes at this level has something to offer. I believe it will be particularly difficult to defeat Kenya on its home turf this time round," the 33- year-old said. While Jayasuriya will concentrate on making runs, seamers Chaminda Vaas and youngster Prabath Nissanka go into the match after bowling Canada out for the lowest ever One-day total of 36. The game also gives veteran De Silva to display his wares in his fifth and final World Cup after getting into bat only once in the last three matches. But coach Dave Whatmore insisted there will not be a change in the batting order to accommodate De Silva. "We have to keep up the momentum and want to win well," he said. "One can't play around with a World Cup game." Copyright AFP 2001

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