| Kenyans on seventh heaven after dismissing Aravinda de Silva at the Nairobi Gymkhana Monday. (AP/PTI)
Nairobi: The ICC president Malcolm Gray had announced only a few days back that a Test status for Kenya is at least five years away. And what an answer the so-called minnows of world cricket had in store.
They handed the 1996 World Cup champions Sri Lanka a 53-run drubbing at the Gymkhana ground, thus throwing the group B wide open.
Unknown 21-year old leg-spinner Collins Obuya stole the limelight from Muttiah Muralidharan taking five for 24, thus putting Sri Lanka’s contention for a Super Six berth under serious doubts.
The stunning victory helped the Kenyans relive the magic moments of the 1996 World Cup when they stunned West Indies in Pune. The Kenyans, it can be noted, has also beaten India a couple of times.
The victory lifted Kenya to 12 points in the group and a victory over Bangladesh at the Wanderers on Saturday will give Steve Tikolo’s team a great chance of reaching the second round for the first time.
The Kenyan players leapt for joy and set off on a long victory lap when Maurice Odumbe ended the game by bowling tail-ender Dilhara Fernando in the 45th over.
Kenya captain Steve Tikolo said: “This was excellent. I think he (Obuya) bowled the spell of his life.”
Sanath Jayasuriya, stunned Sri Lankan captain, responded: “It was an amateurish show, we never looked like professionals.
“I’m so disappointed with our batsmen. We should have got that total.”
Obuya made it a family affair after brother Kennedy Otieno had top-scored with 60 in Kenya’s 210 for nine.
Chaminda Vaas, the top wicket-taker in the tournament, took three for 41 and off -spinner Muralidharan four for 28, his best World Cup figures.
The Lankans, unbeaten in three games before Monday’s match, had looked well on course for victory after the first innings.
But Obuya came on to rip out the heart of the Lanka innings, after they had cruised to 71 for two on a slowing pitch.
By the end, the Kenyans were rushing into a celebratory huddle as each wicket fell.
Obuya had never taken more than two wickets in a one-dayer before. His previous nine wickets in 18 games had cost him 78.22 runs apiece.
He began the performance of a lifetime when Hashan Tillekeratne, having made 23, swept him and was caught at deep mid-wicket.
The score crept up to 87 for three before the last seven wickets fell for 70 runs.
Mahela Jayawardene, on five, tried to turn a full toss from Obuya and sent back a leading edge into the bowler’s hands.
Kumar Sangakkara, playing back to Obuya, edged up in the air off the shoulder of the bat and wicket-keeper Otieno, dashed round and took a diving catch by his glove tips, the dismissal confirmed by the third umpire.
Obuya then took his prize wicket of Aravinda de Silva, who cut at a full-length ball too close to him and was caught behind. Vaas was caught and bowled to complete Obuya’s perfect day as the innings caved in.
Earlier, put into bat, Kenyans made a decent start after losing Ravindu Shah in the second ball of the game. Brjal Patel (12) also did not last long, wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara taking a diving catch of the bowling of Vaas.
Otieno and Tikolo kept the run rate going, and, by the end of 10 overs, the hosts had reached 52. After the two got out, Hitesh Modi and Maurice Odumbe took Kenya past 150 before Modi (26 off 56 balls) was bowled by Murali in the 38th over.