Having played at the 1996 World Cup, the Netherlands failed to make the cut for the next edition in 1999. However, they had the satisfaction of being one of the hosts – the 1999 World Cup featured 42 matches, of which 37 were played in England, two in Scotland and one each in Ireland, Wales and the Netherlands. Thus, the VRA Ground in Amstelveen had the honour of staging the first World Cup match in the Netherlands.
This Group A match between Kenya and South Africa on 26th May 1999 was also the first men’s ODI to played on Dutch soil – the first women’s international in the Netherlands was held in 1984, when the hosts lost to New Zealand by 67 runs in a one-off ODI at Haarlem. Coming into this all-African duel, South Africa had reaffirmed their status as one of the favourites with wins against India, Sri Lanka, and England.
On the other hand, Kenya had lost their first three matches, against Zimbabwe, England, and India. The two teams had met in an ODI once before, during the KCA Centenary Tournament at Nairobi in 1996-97. On that occasion, South Africa had recorded their biggest winning margin of 202 runs. As Kenya looked to defy the odds and make amends at the picturesque venue, they were inserted by Hansie Cronje on a grassy pitch.
A bright start from the openers ignited Kenyan hopes on a sunny day before 4260 spectators. Kennedy Otieno and Ravindu Shah took on the likes of Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald with promise, raising a stand of 66 inside 16 overs. Shah (50) had a positive approach and went on to reach his fifty in 62 balls, even as Steve Elworthy struck twice at the other end. However, he was caught behind off Donald two balls later.
Shah’s dismissal reduced Kenya to 82/3 in the 19th over, and the Proteas quickly tightened their grip on the proceedings thereafter. Donald castled Maurice Odumbe to make it 91/4, before Lance Klusener, having conceded just two runs from his first three overs, removed Steve Tikolo (caught by Cronje at mid-off) and Thomas Odoyo (LBW) off successive deliveries in his fourth over to leave Kenya in deep trouble at 104/6.
‘Zulu’ was not done yet – in his following over, the in-form fast-bowling all-rounder had Alpesh Vadher caught off his own bowling. At this stage, his figures read 5-3-3-3. Captain Aasif Karim battled for a while until he was trapped on the pads by his opposite number Cronje. Klusener returned to complete his bag of five, bowling both Mohammad Sheikh and Joseph Angara to terminate the innings at 152 in 44.3 overs.
Klusener finished with 5/21 from 8.3 overs, providing the first instance of a South African taking a five-wicket haul at the World Cup. These are the second-best World Cup figures for South Africa, behind Andrew Hall’s 5/18 against England in the 2007 edition. Herschelle Gibbs launched the chase with a run-a-ball 38 in an opening partnership of 55 with Gary Kirsten, who, by contrast, seemed to be in no hurry.
Jacques Kallis (44*) and Daryll Cullinan (35*) came together at 86/3 and put on an unbroken 67 to give South Africa a facile seven-wicket win with nine overs to spare. Odoyo, who scalped Gibbs, bowled with discipline to return a miserly 1/18 from nine overs, as did Odumbe, with 1/15 from seven overs. But Kenya’s modest total was never going to be good enough to defend against the strongest team of the tournament.
Klusener was named Man of the Match for the third match in a row, and would later be declared as the Player of the Tournament for his 281 runs and 17 wickets. The VRA Ground has hosted a further 23 men’s ODIs, including a tri-series between Australia, India and Pakistan in 2004. In 2006, it saw Sri Lanka amass a record total of 443/9 against the Dutch. In 2013, South Africa returned for another ODI, this time against the hosts.