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When underdogs Kenya served the first notice of their future glories

Kenya 1996
by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Maurice Odumbe‘s Kenya succeeded in making their presence felt in their first-ever World Cup tournament in 1996 , when they defended a modest 166 against a strong West Indies outfit to pull off one of the most remarkable upsets in competition’s history.

To beat a West Indies side boasting the likes of Richie Richardson, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Courtney Walsh, Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop would always be a good result. Period. But it became a headline-grabbing world event when international minnows, Kenya, rolled over the giants during the 1996 World Cup.

Playing for the first time on the world stage, Kenya’s collection of part-timers made them a team to be reckoned with over the course of this, and subsequent World Cups. Led by the skipper and all-rounder Maurice Odumbe, and possessing a world-class batting talent in the form of right-hander Steve Tikolo, along with a collection of supporting cricketers, the Africans managed an unimposing 166 when asked to bat.

Extras top-scored for them with 35 while Tikolo added 29 with the bat. In the context of Tikolo’s career, it was a modest contribution, but never more significant. The future captain would go on to play instrumental knocks in three subsequent World Cups.

Bowled out for 93 in reply, the total was also the Windies’ second-lowest score in ODI history and marked their first-ever defeat at the hands of an associate nation. Most significantly it was Kenya’s first-ever official ODI victory. Speaking after his side’s lap of honour, skipper Odumbe said, “It’s like winning the World Cup. It’s a dream come true. The West Indies are our idols, and to beat an idol is a great thing.”

The West Windies captain was less effusive with his match appraisal, the defeat prompting Richie Richardson to walk out of the post-match media conference after issuing the tersest of statements. “My congratulations to Kenya for winning a very important match. We did not play the way we should have. I am very, very disappointed. I have nothing more to add.” His team-mates, somewhat ill-advisedly, posed for photographs with the victorious Kenyans in their dressing-room.

This sent the Caribbean media into a feeding frenzy and the team was savaged. In the days that followed, there were calls for Brian Lara to be sent home after it was alleged he had told the Kenyans that he didn’t mind losing to them as much as a white team like South Africa. Lara claimed his comments were taken out of context.

The Kenyans made the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup and proved a significant force for a decade on the world stage. Not bad for 500-1 tournament outsiders.

First published in 2010

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