Last chance for Zimbabwe and Kenya to impress

Updated: Mar 19, 2011, 18:10 PM IST

Kolkata: Local interest will be at its lowest ebb as tournament laggards Zimbabwe take on Kenya in an inconsequential group A match of the cricket World Cup here on Sunday.

The tie could be the two nations` last on cricket`s biggest stage, provided the International Cricket Council goes ahead with its proposal to trim the 2015 edition to a 10-team competition. Zimbabwe, who crushed Canada by 175 runs after their loss to Australia, would start as the favourites against the 2003 semifinalists, desperate to register their first win of the tournament, at the historic Eden Gardens.

The team`s thumping win over the North Americans, was, however, followed by abominable performances against New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. That the batsmen failed miserably during those matches didn`t help Zimbabwe`s cause.

Under all-rounder Elton Chigumbura`s captaincy, Zimbabwe`s showing in the tournament has been far from impressive, with their batting proving to be a disaster. In four of the five matches, their top-order failed to perform, leading to early finishes.

"We fielded well and bowled superbly, but that can`t be said about our batting," Chigumbura summed up the batsmen`s showing after their seven wicket loss to Pakistan in the last match. "We have to work on it because that has been the big problem through the tournament. Besides the batting part, we`ve put up a big fight. My biggest concern is on the batting in the first 15 overs, especially against stronger teams. We have to really work on that when we get home."

Zimbabwe will look forward to their off-spinner Ray Price, who has been their leading wicket-taker with seven scalps. The batsmen`s poor run has led to heavy defeats for the Africans in their all their matches. Kenyan skipper Jimmy Kamande felt that the upcoming match was important in terms of gaining experience. "This tournament is a stepping stone for Kenyan cricket. A lot of guys here have never been to the World Cup, we know what it takes to achieve here, whatever we gain, we take it back home with us and try to improve our performance."

The Kenyans were annihilated by New Zealand, Pakistan and Sri Lanka before suffering a five-wicket loss to Canada, but they can take confidence from their performance against three- time defending champions Australia, in which they totalled a respectable 246 for six chasing 324. Collins Obuya scored an unbeaten 98 while Tanmay Mishra struck 72, efforts which helped Kenya take some pride out of the match. Kenya will have a psychological edge as, in their last meeting in the 2003 World Cup, they cruised to a seven-wicket win.

Squads: Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (c), Brendan Taylor, Regis Chakabva, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Craig Ervine, Vusi Sibanda, Greg Lamb, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Ray Price, Shingirai Masakadza, Charles Coventry, Terry Duffin, Chris Mpofu, Tinashe Panyangara.

Kenya: Jimmy Kamande (c), Maurice Ouma (wk), Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, David Obuya, Tanmay Mishra, Thomas Odoyo, Rakep Patel, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Elijah Otieno, James Ngoche, Shem Ngoche, Peter Ogondo, Steve Tikolo, Seren Waters.

Umpires: Asoka de Silva and Kumar Dharmasena. TV umpire: Ian Gould. Fourth umpire: Billy Doctrove. Match Referee: Ranjan Madugalle. Start of play: 9.30 am (local time).