Collins Obuya is Kenya's new cricket hero

Published: Tuesday, February 25, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Kenyans doing the lap of honour after leg spinning sensation Obuya buoyed them to victory over SL Nairobi: Leg spinner Collins Obuya, Kenya's hero against Sri Lanka in its shock World Cup group 'B' win at Nairobi Gymkhana on Monday, proved there is life for the Africans beyond their stalwart generation. Six of the side that took part in Kenya's other great upset triumph, a 73-run World Cup win over the West Indies at Pune, India, in 1996, were playing for Kenya in Monday's giant-killing act.

But Obuya, whose five for 54 in 10 overs bowled out Sri Lanka for 157 to set up a brilliant 53-run victory in Nairobi, showed that there was more to Kenyan cricket than a bunch of ageing players. Obuya's return was the ninth best in the 28-year history of the World Cup. Obuya, 21, made his international debut against the West Indies in Nairobi in 2001 but nothing in that performance suggested he would one day out- bowl Sri Lankan spin wizard Muthiah Muralitharan who claimed four for 28 on Monday. Instead it was Obuya's hard-hitting batting that caught the eye that day, his 27 runs coming off just 31 balls including four boundaries.

With Kenya not playing as many One-day matches as its Test counterparts - the country only has full Limited Overs International status and has yet to be elevated to the five-day game - Obuya's opportunities at top flight level have been few and far between. Monday's match was the Nairobi-born spinner's 19th One-day International and his previous best bowling figures were 2 for 46 against Canada at Cape Town in Kenya's second match of this World Cup on February 15. He would probably have had another chance to show his wares against New Zealand, but the Kiwis decided to boycott their February 21 match in Nairobi on security grounds.

Instead he had the minor satisfaction of finishing 13 not out when Kenya made 210 for nine in its 50 overs on Monday. But that was nothing compared to his bowling return, all the more impressive for it came against Sri Lanka whose batsmen are renowned for their ability to play spin. And Obuya also demonstrated his fielding prowess, taking two spectacular catches off his own bowling to get rid of Mahela Jayawardene and Chaminda Vaas, the second of which sent him off on an impromptu lap of honour around the ground as his team sensed a famous win. "I am so happy," said Obuya. "Now I just want to become the best spinner in Kenya."

He may have already achieved that ambition but the history of cricket is littered with tales of unheralded players who had one great performance only to quickly return to the obscurity from which they so briefly emerged. Now the big question for Obuya is whether Monday's performance represents the high watermark of his career or not. Kenyan cricket lovers will hope, both for their own and Obuya's sake, that there are many more good days to come. Copyright AFP 2001

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