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Game on for Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 18- With the threat of World Cup exclusion hanging over their heads, every match at the sub continent has an air of last chance saloon for Jimmy Kamande’s side.

On Friday, International Cricket Council chief executive Haroon Lorgat backed the body’s decision to have only 10 teams at the World Cup despite low tier sides like 2003 semi finalists Kenya and Ireland performing well in the tournament.

It all starts on Sunday against New Zealand whose fortunes on the One Day International (ODI) have nosedived having lost 14 of their last 16 matches.

Eldine Baptiste’s side will be forgiven for thinking that the Kiwis are ripe for the taking but first they have to deal with their own form.
Kenya’s batting has been woeful for a for long time with players struggling to register big scores on the crease.

Kamande, Steve Tikolo and Thomas Odoyo have been the main stay of Kenya’s batting for what seems like an eternity but the recent form of youngsters Seren Waters and Alex Obanda is something to fall back on.

Both players will taste the World Cup stage for the first time and Kenyan’s will be hoping they won’t be overawed by the occasion.

New Zealand’s  woeful run prompted the cricket board to organise a major reshuffle ahead of the recent Pakistan series with John Wright named as coach and an independent selection panel put in place.

Semi-finalists in two of the three previous World Cups, the Kiwis have had little to cheer about after arriving in the sub-continent.

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They scraped to an unconvincing win over lowly Ireland despite scoring 311 before a 117-run thrashing at the hands of India in their two warm-up games.

Ross Taylor, deputising as captain for the injured Daniel Vettori in the India match, accepted that the team needed to lift their game in all the departments.

"Our spinners are not known as big turners," he said. "We yielded big runs to the Indians. We need to find ways to score runs quickly and also find the boundary options.

"When chasing that big a total, you got to get runs by boundaries. You need to do that otherwise you get eliminated. Hopefully, we can improve our performance in the World Cup."

Vettori, nursing a hamstring strain, is expected to be fit in time for the day game at the Chidambaram Stadium.

A major headache for the Kiwis has centred around where to play attacking batsman Brendon McCullum.

McCullum was promoted as an opener on the tour of India late last year but was shunted up and down the order during the Pakistan series, reflecting an uncertainty in the ranks over his batting position.

As for the player himself, he would rather open the innings and make up for his disappointing run in the past two World Cups where he scored just 152 runs from 10 innings.

"The previous two World Cups I played down the order where you’ve got reasonably limited opportunities to create an impact," said McCullum.

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"That’s why I’m absolutely determined to play a role at the top of the order. Coming to India the best time to bat is when the ball is new."


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