A week-long odyssey: Ken in Zim

Perhaps fittingly, the series between Kenya and Zimbabwe has ended with a 2-2 result. Rain washed out any chance of either team sneaking home to bragging rights and instead the series finished with few questions answered and many questions reiterated.

A series that was celebrated by consistently meagre crowds of less than 500, it is fair to say that there was little notice attached to this latest of clashes between Africa’s other major cricketing nations. Unsurprisingly, neither Zimbabwe nor Kenya did much more in this series than further establish the gap between themselves and the leading African cricketing nation, South Africa.

While their South African counterparts took a 2-0 lead on Australia, the Zimbabweans were bowled out for 69 in the chase of 135 for victory. Two days later, Kennedy Otieno provided 69 of Kenya’s 122 runs, and Zimbabwe cruised to a 109-run series-levelling win.

Playing hosts, Zimbabwe entered the series with intentions of rebuilding a cricket team that has suffered at the hands of political unrest, player walkouts, financial troubles and general unease.

The plan of attack was to be executed by newly instated captain Terry Duffin, 23, with all the experience of zero One Day Internationals. Factor in that the Kenyans, recovering from a player walkout of their own, fielded a competitive international side for the first time since the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy, and the series had all the attractiveness of a Twenty20 bowl-off.

Six players debuted in the first match and one other in the second, with Duffin leading a total of five Zimbabweans first-timers. The series exposed some promising young talent for both sides, but more so for the home side, with many of the usual suspects turning up for Kenya.

Opening batsman Piet Rinke scored more runs than any Zimbabwe player (168 @ 42.00) and just 1 less than Otieno (169 @ 42.25), the series leader.

Just 18 years of age, Keegan Meth played the first List-A OD match of his career, entering as a substitute in the first ODI match. He took a crucial wicket in a debut spell of 3-1-6-1 and was never used with the ball for the remainder of the series. In his second game, Meth scored 53 in a losing effort, displaying his talent, but doing nothing to confirm his readiness for international cricket.

That legspinner Ryan Higgins (7 wickets @ 12.28) was more successful than any other Zimbabwean bowler, or that Peter Ongondo (11 @ 9.90) led all bowlers in wicket-taking terms speaks very little for either player.

Rather, no one from either side did much to establish international footing. Such was the low level of cricket that prevailed. The first two matches showcased some fairly competitive cricket, but the third and fourth devolved ultimately to humiliating blowouts.

The rest of world blinked and seemed to miss this week-long series, and from the evidence of the crowd turnouts, so did most of the population of Zimbabwe.

While the international schedule for Kenya is shadowed by accustomed uncertainty, the next action for Zimbabwe will be in the Caribbean for seven ODIs. The West Indies may be struggling to attain success against most international opposition these days, but especially on the evidence of this series, they would still be firm favourites.

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