Cricket sometimes throws up big surprises, an unexpected turn of events, startling performances. Here was this unequal face-off that unraveled all the intricacies of the sport.
Just two hat-tricks in 24 years spanning seven World Cups, but two more in a month in the same tournament! Pacemen continued to revel in the 2003 event, as Brett Lee extended his devastating run with his three strikes in a row. Yet it was 39-year-old left-arm spinner Asif Karim who waylaid the Australians on this Durban night before the shaken champions scampered home.
‘Binga’ Lee had Kennedy Otieno hopping. The fourth ball of his second over kicked nastily, crunching into the Kenyan opener’s elbow and running on to the stumps. Otieno was helped off the field in excruciating pain. Brijal Patel bagged a golden duck, hanging out his bat for Ricky Ponting to hold a splendid low catch. Otieno’s brother, David Obuya, walked into a nerve-wracking situation. The field closed in, a ritual anticipating a hat-trick. Lee fired in an in-swinging yorker that smashed into the stumps.
Kenya tottered at 3 for three in 4 overs. It was the 17th hat-trick in One-day Internationals and third by an Australian. Lanky left-arm paceman Bruce Reid achieved the feat against New Zealand in 1986, and right-arm fast bowler Anthony Stuart emulated him against Pakistan in 1997. After the havoc wreaked by Lee, spirited batting by Ravindu Shah, captain Steve Tikolo and Hitesh Modi carried Kenya to 174 for eight in 50 overs. Lee finished with an analysis of 8-3-14-3.
It seemed that the match would be over in 20 overs, the way Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden thrashed the bowling. Peter Ongondo dismissed them both, but it was Karim who turned the situation right around. Kenya’s captain in the 1999 World Cup, Karim had retired after that event only to be recalled for the present edition. Combining Bapu Nadkarni-like accuracy with the incisiveness of a Brett Lee, Karim spun a web of intrigue as he came on in the 16th over. Suddenly, the Australians seemed mesmerised by the veteran.
Karim trapped Ponting in front of the stumps. He had Darren Lehmann snapped up by wicketkeeper David Obuya, and soon caught Brad Hogg off his own bowling. Karim had grabbed three wickets without conceding a run in his first two overs. Suddenly, Australia were lurching at 117 for five. Even as Andrew Symonds and Ian Harvey availed of scoring opportunities at the other end, Karim bowled one of the most accurate spells ever seen in the World Cup. He conceded just three runs in 49 deliveries before the winning boundary was hit off his bowling. His stint of 8.2-6-7-3 won him the first man-of-the-match prize of his career, the oldest to achieve it in the World Cup barring Shaukat Dukanwala of UAE in 1996.
The two riveting bowling feats in this match not only provided a striking contrast but also brought out some of the best and diverse skills in the game. Raw speed and swing on the one hand, and tantalising flight and spin on the other completed a splendid picture of a sport that continues to enthrall one generation after another. It once again showed that cricket is for all shapes and sizes, and cuts across even barriers of age and experience.
Kenya: 174 for 8 wickets (50 overs), Australia: 178 for 5 wickets (31.2 overs) (CWC 2003)
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