| Harbhajan Singh celebrates with team-mates after taking Steve Tikolo’s wicket in Cape Town. (Reuters)
Cape Town, March 7: Phew, it was close.
At the end of it, though, India got four points in their opening Super Six match and (after aeons) Sourav Ganguly led from the front. Indeed, the six-wicket victory over Kenya has taken India a step closer to the semifinals of World Cup 2003.
Chasing 225 for six, India finished on 226 for four (47.5 overs), with the captain unbeaten on 107 (120 balls) and Yuvraj Singh not out on 58 (64 deliveries). Significantly, Sourav (the MoM) became the first batsman in this edition to author two hundreds. His ODI tally now stands at 21.
Later, Sourav confessed he was a bit worried, but complimented Yuvraj for playing a “blinder”. As for his own innings, he had this to say: “As we were under pressure, this knock will definitely remain one of my better ones.”
While the chalets have been pulled down, the attractions at Newlands are still many. For example, there are few prettier sights than the clouds seeking to overwhelm the famed Table Mountain. Under floodlights, it makes for incredible viewing.
With competing interests, the cricket must invariably be of the highest order for the fans’ attention to be arrested. The Kenyans, first-time qualifiers into the Super Six, did just that till Sourav and Yuvraj stymied their push for an upset.
Having already made a “statement”, as coach Sandeep Patil put it, the Kenyans did take a step forward by posting their highest total of the tournament and, then, struck quickly to leave India gasping within 10 overs.
Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar went inside five overs (both to smart catches) and Mohammed Kaif fell to a questionable Peter Willey verdict. At 24 for three, it seemed Gwalior and Port Elizabeth would be revisited.
Sourav and his deputy, Rahul Dravid, began pulling India from the brink. They had added 84 when Dravid was caught and bowled by Collins Obuya. At that point, it was terrible news, but Yuvraj again showed he has matured beyond his 21 years. As for Sourav, he was into overdrive.
“Give it all you have,” was Bob Woolmer’s advice, on the eve of the Kenyans’ biggest game. Well, they took that seriously enough — besides fielding like panthers, they didn’t do much wrong with the ball either. Given their inexperience, they couldn’t have done better.
Earlier, thanks to the Indians’ butterfingers — as many as five catches were put down, four off a bewildered Ashish Nehra alone — the Kenyans reached a competitive total. The beneficiaries were openers Kennedy Obuya (a.k.a. Kennedy Otieno) and Ravindu Shah, who put on 75.
In what must have delighted the Ali Bachers, Newlands saw a handsome turnout with Kenya too having quite a few supporters. South Africa may be out of the World Cup, but the South Africans aren’t through with it.