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On this day in 2003: India end Kenya’s World Cup fairytale

by Akshay Gopalakrishnan 3 minute read

Kenya had stunned all observers with their inspired run to the semi-final of the 2003 World Cup, but the challenge posed by a powerful India proved insurmountable, as Steve Tikolo’s men went crashing out

Neither India nor Kenya were safe from the cynic’s eye at the start of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. Few had predicted India’s steamrolling path to the semi-final, as they crushed every opponent put in front of them, except Australia. Fewer still had foreseen Kenya as one of the last four teams standing in the competition.

On an overcast day in Durban, Sourav Ganguly elected to make first use of the Kingsmead surface, and the smile on his face said all that needed to be on how crucial this coin toss was going to be. With massive clouds overhead and significant moisture trapped underneath, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag left their love for strokeplay on the shelf as they set about building a platform in difficult conditions.

Sourav Ganguly launches one into the stands during the course of his unbeaten century

Before long, Kenya’s bowlers began erring, and India’s openers capitalised on the lapses to save themselves from stagnation. Sehwag’s dismissal in the 19th over broke the opening stand at 74, but Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, India’s most prolific partnership in one-day internationals, offset the loss with a 103-run second-wicket stand.

With the ball not coming on to the bat, run-scoring proved difficult, but India’s two best batsmen were up to the game. Where Tendulkar was a lot more restrained, his 83 containing just five fours and a six, a set Ganguly cut loose more effectively, with as many fours and five hits over the fence, using his feet to get his weight behind the lofted shots. One of those sixes gave him his third hundred of the competition, as India surged ahead to 270-4, with Yuvraj Singh providing a strong finish towards the end.

Apart from defending 270 runs, India had the additional challenge of getting their overs in quickly, with the threat of rain constantly looming. Their fast bowlers, led by Zaheer Khan, made Ganguly’s job easier by delivering early wickets, as Kenya were reduced to 36-4.

Recovery from there on was insurmountable, as Ganguly gradually phased out his main bowlers. Preserving them for the big final, Ganguly turned to the part-timers to get the rest of the overs in.

Steve Tikolo, the Kenya captain, benefitted from that to make a dogged 56, but India’s might eventually proved too much to overcome, as Kenya’s innings fizzled out for 179, and India cantered effortlessly into their first World Cup final since their game-changing 1983 triumph.

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