By RON FANFAIR
Canada moved a step closer towards qualifying for the next cricket World Cup with an efficient and convincing seven-wicket victory with 15.3 overs to spare over 2003 semi-finalist Kenya in the opening round of the Super Eight series in South Africa today.
Ugandan-born medium pacer, Henry Osinde, and wicketkeeper, Ashish Bagai, combined to remove the first three Kenyan batsmen in nine overs with 39 runs on the board and help restrict their opponents, who they sent in to bat first, to a modest total of 181 in 43.5 overs.
Then, attacking opener, Rizwan Cheema, set the stage for the Canadians to achieve their second win in nine One-Day Internationals against the East Africans with a blazing innings of 49 off 24 balls with five sixes and four boundaries. Bagai and middle-order batsman, Ian Billcliff, sealed the deal with an unbroken fourth wicket stand of 78 in 16.1 overs as Canada reached its target in the 34th over.
Bagai ended the match with a huge six over the backward point boundary to finish with 40 not out off 51 balls while Billcliff contributed 36 off 62 balls with a six and four boundaries. Left-handed opener, Geoff Barnett, who featured in the dashing 61-run first wicket partnership off 7.2 overs with Cheema, also played a key role in the win, scoring 38 off 53 balls with seven boundaries.
“I am extremely happy for the guys,” said national all-rounder, Abdool Samad, who missed the tour to be with his ailing wife who suffers from Crohn’s disease. “I have followed the games on the Internet and have been impressed with the way the team has played so far. I think the pre-series camp in Sri Lanka has worked well in our favour and the overseas-based players have certainly made their mark. I am so excited and I wish that I was with the team.”
Opening bowlers, Umar Bhatti and Osinde, accounted for five Kenyan wickets for 78 runs off 19 overs, with Osinde capturing 4-39 off nine overs. It was the second time that the tall right-handed bowler claimed four wickets in an ODI after performing the feat against the Kenyans in an International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cricket League Division One game in Nairobi in February 2007.
Cheema, who stepped back into the opener’s role for the injured John Davison, completed a fine all-round performance, taking 2-13 off 5.5 overs while medium pacer, Khurram Chohan, clinched 2-34, including the wicket of Kenya’s top scorer, Jimmy Kamande (61), who was associated in an eighth-wicket stand of 72 in 14.2 overs with Nehemiah Odhiambo that – along with 23 extras – boosted the African side’s total.
Bagai, Canada’s captain, shared in five dismissals for the second time in 39 ODIs to put his team at the top of the standings in the Super Eight series with six points. Ireland, which suffered a shock defeat to Afghanistan by 22 runs today, is in second place with six points (Canada’s run rate is superior) while Kenya has four points.
Canada completes the Super Eight series with contests against Afghanistan on April 13, the United Arab Emirates on April 15 and The Netherlands two days later.