The 2003 World Cup was memorable in many respects, but nothing could match the amazing feat of Kenya, who became the first ever Associate nation to enter a World Cup semi-final.
Buoyed by wins over Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe and a lucky forfeiture by New Zealand, the spirited African nation defied all odds to reach the final four before bowing out to India, gaining the respect of the world.
This wonderful performance had strengthened their claim for Test status like never before, but unfortunately, Kenyan cricket came down tumbling after this high. Their inspirational former captain Maurice Odumbe was banned for alleged corruption in 2004 and Kenya’s performances, even against fellow Associates, deteriorated steadily.
They finished bottom in the 2011 World Cup, losing all six matches without a fight. However, they still hold the record of being the Associate team to have beaten the maximum number of Test nations in one-day matches (five).
In this post, let us look back at Kenya’s five most noteworthy one-day international victories, in chronological order:
1) Beat West Indies by 73 runs, Pune, 1995-96
The 1996 World Cup was the first international tournament ever played by Kenya. After losing to India, Australia and Zimbabwe, the Kenyans faced two-time world champions West Indies in a group stage match at Pune.
It was all going according to the script as the Associate nation was bowled out for a meagre 166 in 49.3 overs (Steve Tikolo the top-scorer with 29, Extras at 37). However, the medium fast bowler Rajab Ali and captain Maurice Odumbe rose to the occasion.
Ali and Odumbe claimed 3/17 and 3/15 respectively as the Windies were shockingly bowled out for 93 in 35.2 overs. They never recovered from 35/4 as no batsman reached even 20. This was Kenya’s first international win, and probably their most memorable.
2) Beat India by 69 runs, Gwalior, 1997-98
This game was part of a tri-series also involving Bangladesh. Even though India beat Kenya in the final, Kenya served a warning to the hosts just two days earlier, scoring a stunning victory against a team containing the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Mohammed Azharuddin and Anil Kumble.
Led by Asif Karim, Kenya posted a strong 265/5 with Odumbe creaming 83, which included five sixes. Indian-origin batsmen Ravindu Shah and Hitesh Modi scored 70 and 51 respectively.
Once Martin Suji removed Tendulkar to make it 34/1, there was no stopping Kenya and the hosts were bowled out for just 196 in 47.1 overs. Odumbe added 3/14 to his knock of 83 to win the Man of the Match award.
3) Beat India by 70 runs, Port Elizabeth, 2001-02
This was another tri-series match (third team being hosts South Africa), and another upset win over India. Openers Kennedy Otieno (64) and Ravindu Shah (50) posted 121 for the first wicket to set the foundation, while Thomas Odoyo scored a quick 51 to help Kenya make a competitive 246/6.
India then crashed to 60/4 under lights, and later to 103/7 before folding for 176 in 46.4 overs. Man of the Match Joesph Angara, a medium fast bowler, had the biggest moment of his career, finishing with 3/30. This was however Kenya’s only win in the tri-series and they could not reach the final.
4) Beat Sri Lanka by 53 runs, Nairobi (Gym), 2002-03
This was a fairy-tale victory as Kenya beat a full-strength Sri Lankan outfit in a 2003 World Cup match in front of their home crowd. After being put in, Kenya rode on Kennedy Otieno’s 60 to reach a total of 210/9, Muttiah Muralitharan taking 4/28.
In the reply, after the fast bowlers had removed the openers, 21-year-old leg-spinner Collins Obuya took over. He scythed through the Lankan middle order, taking 5/24 in a dream spell to reduce the opponents from 71/2 to 119/7.
Sri Lanka were eventually bowled out for 157 in 45 overs and Kenya were almost through to the super six stage, which they later achieved by beating Bangladesh. The Kenyans did a victory lap around the ground in front of their grateful fans, who witnessed a memorable performance by their team.
5) Beat Zimbabwe by 7 wickets, Bloemfontein, 2002-03
This victory over a stronger Zimbabwean side in the super six stage of the 2003 World Cup sealed Kenya’s historic entry into the semi-finals. Except for Andy Flower (63), no one stood up to Kenya’s bowling as Zimbabwe were skittled for just 133 in 44.1 overs.
Martin Suji scalped 3/19 in a highly impressive display of seam bowling. In reply, Odoyo (43*) and Odumbe (38*) stitched an unbeaten 73-run stand for the fourth wicket to help Kenya reach 135/3 comfortably with as many as 24 overs to spare.
Since beating Zimbabwe in the aforementioned 2003 World Cup match, Kenya has not won an ODI against a Test nation except for beating Zimbabwe four times during the period when the latter were in isolation from Test cricket.