Canada finds heroes to secure a win against Kenya

Canada drew on the twin powers of self-belief and an intense hunger to pick up points to post a well-crafted five-wicket victory over Kenya with 27 deliveries to spare in a very competitive Battle of the Wooden Spoon in Group A of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 at the Ferozshah Kotla here today

Connoisseurs of the sport may not have found the quality of cricket very high but none could complain about the intent and intensity on show. Both sides strained every sinew to ensure that they would edge ahead of the opposition in the quest to make the most of the chance to pick up points. And Canada scored high with its intent to continue its development.

Canada had a number of heroes who helped it script a memorable win in what was a gripping contest. Skipper Ashish Bagai (60, 95 balls, six fours) and the wonderfully positive Amarbir ‘Jimmy’ Hansra (70, 99 balls, seven fours, two sixes) shared a 132-run stand to beat back Kenya’s aspirations and make light of the challenge of chasing under lights.

Without being rattled despite coming together at 48 for three, they managed the chase admirably. After the pair played itself in against every trick that the Kenyans tried, Hansra freed his arms a bit to hit straight sixes off spinners Jimmy Kamande and Steve Tikolo to ease the pressure that was building up on the team. Hansra and Bagai played with maturity to take the team close to victory before both fell to Nehemiah Odhiambo in the death.

Earlier, the Uganda-born Henry Osinde was the hero of Canada’s blazing start after Kenya captain Jimmy Kamande decided to take first strike on winning the toss. He claimed Maurice Ouma’s wicket off the first delivery and followed it up with two more strikes in his third and fourth overs. Osinde cranked up pace to see the backs of Seren Waters and David Obuya.

Seamers Harvir Singh Baidwan and Rizwan Cheema bowled a nagging line in the death and made Kenya regret its decision to delay claiming the Batting Powerplay until it could not avoid it any more. Baidwan and Cheema were impressive as they strangled the Kenyan batsmen and let them make just 19 runs in the last five overs while claiming two wickets.

For Kenya, Tanmay Mishra and Thomas Odoyo made contrasting half-centuries as they starred in Kenya’s comeback from the ignominy of being reduced 57 for five in the first 15 overs, helping their team post 198. The 24-year-old Mishra (51, 73 balls, three fours) was helped by skipper Jimmy Kamande in arresting the slide before the 32-year-old Odoyo (51, 62 balls, five fours, one six) took the score close to the 200-run mark.

When he has the time to replay the first half of this match in his mind, Canada skipper Bagai may rue his decision to delay the onset of leg-spinner Balaji Rao until the 22nd over, a good six overs after Kenyan legend Steve Tikolo was the fifth man dismissed. It allowed Mishra and Kamande to play themselves in and launch the Kenyan fightback.

Had Bagai got his best slow bowler to attack the sixth wicket pair, Canada could have been chasing a smaller target. Instead, he got left-arm spinner Parth Desai and Amarbir ‘Jimmy’ Hansra to have a go before turning to Balaji Rao. As he unfurled his repertoire, Balaji Rao found Mishra and Kamande playing him with respect before he lured the Kenyan captain to doom.

Kenya now looks destined to finish with the Wooden Spoon in Group A with matches against reigning champion Australia and Zimbabwe left to be played.  And, with games against Australia in Mumbai and New Zealand in Bangalore still some time away, Canada will have time to cherish only its second win in 16 World Cup games.