Preview: Pakistan begin campaign with easy Kenya game

Kenya would be seeking to redeem themselves after their opening game mauling at the hands of New Zealand in Chennai

By Suneer Chowdhary

Hambantota: Feb 22, 2011

Kenya s entry into the semi-finals of the 2003 edition of the World Cup, one thought, would have heralded a new era in their cricket – an era that should have probably culminated into Kenya, becoming the 11th Test playing nation and going on to challenge the likes of Bangladesh and West Indies.

Instead, as they take on Pakistan in the sixth match of the World Cup 2011 at Hambantota, the crease lines would have grown manifold and for a good reason.

Batting in a manner that would makes the distinction between the Test-playing and the Associate nations more pronounced, Kenya were blown away in their previous match against New Zealand. The track there, at Chennai, had shown negligible signs of assisting those with the ability to bowl fast and yet, three quick bowlers had managed to share the ten Kenyan wickets.

New Zealand have themselves been quite knackered before the start of the game and many experts had tipped that game to be potentially the first major upset in the World Cup. There was an upset alright but it was probably the sponsors of the tournament who underwent that emotion thanks to hopelessly one-sided nature of the contest.

To put it mildly, Kenya cannot do worse against Pakistan. The only way from here for Kenya will be up and they will look to use the unpredictable nature of their oppositions to their advantage. For starters, the batting needs to show some signs of application probably in the same manner as Seren Waters had, during his innings of 16.

Pakistan would be thankful for an easy initiation into the World Cup like this. They have had a gruelling series in New Zealand leading up to the tournament.

While they performed much better that many would have bet on after the kind of year that was 2010, the tracks in New Zealand are a far cry from those found in the subcontinent and readjusting to them could take its own time. A couple of warm-up games and another ‘practice match in the guise of an ODI would help the dark horses of the tournament no end.

Coming into the tournament, Pakistan seemed to have ticked a lot of their boxes. The once-fragile batting has been bolstered by the presence of Younis Khan and the stunning return of form for Misbah ul Haq.

With Ahmed Shehzad quickly emerging as a youngster to look out for in the future at the top of the innings and the likes of Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq in the middle to pummel the ball when required, the batting seems taken care of.

Kenya will find the Pakistani bowling even hotter to handle. Shoaib Akhtar has had a rather lengthy run in the side, by his standards, without injury or controversy. Umar Gul continues to lead the attack in the middle and end overs while Wahab Riaz has overcome the spot-fixing controversy from 2010 to take up the gauntlet rather well.

And if it is not the quicker ones, the Pakistani spinners possess enough arsenal to get better of most rival batsmen. Where Pakistan needs to be a tad wary of against Kenya is with the complacency factor. In an almost similar situation in 1996, West Indies had found out, at their own expense, the perils of underestimating Kenya. With Pakistan having already been at the receiving end of a shocking loss in the previous World Cup, one can hope them not to!

Teams

Pakistan (from): Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul.

Kenya (from): David Obuya, Seren Waters, Collins Obuya, Steve Tikolo, Maurice Ouma, Rakep Patel, Jimmy Kamande, Thomas Odoyo, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Shem Ngoche, Elijah Otieno.

Umpires: Tony Hill (New Zealand) & Nigel Llong (England).

Time: 14.30 local (09.00 GMT).

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com . His Twitter handle is @suneerchowdhary)

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