Afridi leads Pakistani cruise

Thursday, September 16 2004

While Shahid Afridi is known for his demolishing batting, albeit on an inconsistent basis, it was his skillful leg spin bowling that came to Pakistan's use today, as they kicked off their ICC Champions Trophy campaign successfully by cruising to a seven wicket win over minnows Kenya.

Eager to get on the field, and get some action, after the entire day yesterday being spoilt as a result of heavy rains, Inzamam-ul-Haq won the toss and inserted the Kenyans into bat, a norm that has been followed persistently by most of the captain thus far in this edition of the Trophy.

Kenya were bowled out of 94, a much lower total than what looked possible at one stage, as they lost their last nine wickets for a mere 27 runs, a collapse doctored by Afridi, and ably nursed by Shoaib Malik, who is continuing his unbelievably good form since the Asia Cup.

Pakistan knocked off the required runs in the 19th over, to send Kenya packing, and setting up probably the match of the tournament against arch-rivals and neighbors, India.

Kenya got off to a promising start despite an early wicket - that of Ravindu Shah, against a surprising new ball attack, surprising because of Inzamam's baffling decision to hand Rana Naved the privilege instead of the usually preferred Shoaib Akhtar.

Kennedy Otieno and Maurice Ouma, who debuted only in the last match against India, put the setback out of their minds, and replied solidly to the Pakistani attack. The latter in particular was impressive, as he put together 65 runs with the senior partner, before rain intervened, and cause a 20-minute break.

Immediately following the restart of play, Akhtar was brought removed from the attack, as evidently it was not to be his day. Bowling well short of his customary pace, he went wicket less the entire innings.

Kenya's collapse was set into pace by the introduction of the spinners, who rattled one wicket after the other. While Afridi initiated the flurry of wickets with Ouma (23), it was Malik who picked up the two crucial wickets - of Otieno (33) and captain Steve Tikolo (a duck).

Hitesh Modi was the only Kenyan batsman after the top order that provided some resistance to the spin, ending up 18 not out.

Pakistan came out all guns blazing, trying to overtake India's net run rate in the process, just in case it comes down to that at the end. Yasir Hameed and Imran Farhat used the front foot at everything that came their way, and sometimes even managed to get away with a few loose shots.

Hameed, who was early on in his innings given a let off by Tikolo in the slips, fell for a well-made 41, to Martin Suji. Farhat remained unbeaten till the end, despite losing two more partners in Malik and Afridi.

Razzaq, brought in ahead of Haq and Yousuf Youhana completed the last rites, as he cracked a boundary to signal a comfortable Pakistani win.

Kenya 94 all out in 32 overs
KO Otieno 33(73), Shoaib Malik 15/3(6), Shahid Afridi 11/5(6)
Pakistan 95 for 3 in 18.4 overs
Yasir Hameed 41(48), Imran Farhat 38*(45), RG Aga 17/2(4)
Man of the Match
Shahid Afridi (Pakistan)

Pakistan (2 points) beat Kenya (0 points) by seven wickets.

Posted by Sudeep