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Kenya defy all odds to reach 2003 World Cup semi-final

Last updated on 20 Sep 2023 | 08:05 AM
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Kenya defy all odds to reach 2003 World Cup semi-final

They remain the only associate team to progress to the last four of a World Cup

Having attained ODI status only in 1996 following their strong outing at the 1994 ICC Trophy, where they finished second, Kenya were applauded by one and all for taking giant strides in cricket. However, it was during the 2003 World Cup that people would actually take notice of their cricketing potential.

Kenya would play their first ODI against India after being clubbed in the same group as Australia, India, Sri Lanka, the West Indies and Zimbabwe in the ‘96 World Cup. And while Kenya lost four of their matches, they beat West Indies to take some positives. Players like Steve Tikolo, Maurice Odumbe and Thomas Odoyo debuted in this tournament and would later play important roles in the 2003 campaign.

After a forgettable 1999 World Cup campaign, where they lost all five group-stage games, Kenya prepared well heading into the 2003 World Cup. The highlight of that was a triangular tournament with South Africa and India, where Kenya would beat India in an ODI. 

Kenya would also win the ICC 6 Nations Challenge tournament by beating Sri Lanka A. However, despite all the progress, Kenya were the least favourite to advance to the Super 6 stages in the 2003 World Cup. The World Cup was being held in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, with the latter being clubbed with South Africa, New Zealand West Indies, Sri Lanka, Canada, and Bangladesh. 

Three would progress, and Kenya wasn’t tipped to finish among them, and they started their campaign with a comprehensive loss against South Africa as well. They bounced back with a win against Canada before a controversial walkover by New Zealand owing to security issues saw Kenya suddenly having two wins from three games.

Kenya would next shock everyone by beating 1996 World Cup champions Sri Lanka, followed by Bangladesh next to qualify for the Super 6 stage, alongside Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

“It was a dream for us to reach the Super Six stage, but none expected a place in the semifinals. We beat Test teams, and that was something incredible,” Kenya coach and former Indian player Sandeep Patil had said in an interview with Sportstar.

Kenya needed luck in the Super Six stage, where they had to play against India, Zimbabwe, and Australia. They couldn’t pull off any upset this time and, after beating Zimbabwe, lost to India and Australia. However, they were level on points with New Zealand, who were eliminated as rules dictated that teams with greater carried forward points would proceed to the semis. New Zealand were left to rue their decision to forfeit the group-stage game against Kenya.

After becoming the first non-playing Test nation to reach a World Cup Super Six stage, Kenya had achieved more than they could ask for with a place in the semi-finals. Though they would lose to India quite comprehensively, the individual contributions of Kenyan cricketers will be remembered forever.

Amongst individual performances in a match stand, Collins Obuya's fifer (5 for 24) against Sri Lanka and Asif Karim’s magical spell against Australia, where his economy remained below 1 (0.84). Kenya’s Karim had bowled the most economical spell of the 2003 World Cup.

Kenya's wicketkeeper Kennedy Otieno would finish only after Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, and Rahul Dravid as the man affecting the fourth-most dismissals by a gloveman in 2003. Barring that, Kenya would also take 28 catches in that tournament, which was the third-best.

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