Virat Kohli cracked a scintillating century as India thrashed minnows Zimbabwe by six wickets in the first cricket one-dayer to take a 1-0 lead in the five match series in Harare on Wednesday.
Chasing a modest victory target of 228, India rode on captain Kohli’s 115 as they overhauled the target with 31 balls to spare in what turned out to be a lop-sided contest at the Harare Sports Club.
Kohli, who hit a spectacular century against West Indies while leading the side in the recently concluded Tri-Series, again led by example to notch up his 15th ODI hundred as he guided the team home after the early dismissals of the two openers.
Ambati Rayudu’s much-awaited international debut also turned out to be an impressive one as he struck a responsible unbeaten 63 off 83 balls and more importantly added 159 runs for the third wicket with his skipper.
Sharma and Dhawan were watchful during their stand of 26 as the ball was seaming around a bit. The flashy Dhawan however got three boundaries in a space of eight deliveries off Kyle Jarvis and Tendai Chatara. The first was an uppish cover drive, the second a square drive and the third a ferocious pull-shot.
The Delhi batsman’s fascination for horizontal bat shots proved to be his undoing as he went for another pull-shot when Jarvis dug one short. He holed out at deep fine leg boundary.
Rohit, on the other hand, found it difficult to get going as he scratched his way to 20 off 40 deliveries before he nicked one from Elton Chigumbura to skipper Taylor behind the stumps.
It was 57 for two when Rayudu joined Kohli, and the duo steadied the innings. The 50 came in the 13th over and their half-century partnership came off 70 balls. The 100 runs for the third wicket came off 121 balls and it was a steady cruise for the “Men In Blue’ from there on.
On a seaming track, Kohli showed his class and temperament as he brought about his 100 off only 102 balls with 11 hits to the fence. Rayudu proved to be the ideal foil as he didn’t play any risky shots and was content in rotating the singles and giving bulk of the strike to his skipper.
The Indian skipper’s maturity was evident after Kohli completed his century by scampering home for a single with a push towards cover region. There was no exalted celebration after reaching the milestone, just a quite acknowledgement of the applause.
He celebrated his landmark with a big six, but holed out in the deep off Utseya’s bowling on 115. India by then were within sniffing distance of the target. Kohli played 108 balls for his knock, which consisted of 13 fours and a six.
Earlier, Zimbabwe scored 227 for seven riding on Pakistan-born opener Sikandar Raza’s gutsy 82 and a 43-run cameo from Elton Chigumbura. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra made a successful return to limited overs cricket with figures of three for 43.
Put in to bat, Zimbabwe seemed to lose track after a cautious start before Chigumbura’s unbeaten knock gave them the much-needed boost.
Pakistan-origin player Raza hit six fours and two sixes while Chigumbura smashed six boundaries and a six during his breezy knock.
Openers Vusi Sibanda and Raza took their time to settle down, hitting just two boundaries in the first ten overs.
Leaving out medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar did not help India’s cause initially. Though debutant Unadkat, Vinay Kumar and Shami bowled to a disciplined line and length, they failed to take early wickets.
But once the spinners were introduced, Zimbabwe found it difficult to get going. India could have had a wicket in their kitty first up, but Kohli dropped a straight forward catch of Raza at first slip off Ravindra Jadeja’s bowling when he was batting on 27.
However, a couple of overs later, Mishra, in his first ODI after more than two years, gave India their first breakthrough trapping Sibanda lbw for 34 off 72 balls. The opening pair put up a 72-run stand in 21.5 overs.
Zimbabwe continued to crawl and brought up their 100 in the 29th over. It was however followed by two quick wickets.
Even as Sean Williams (15) got off the mark straightaway with a reverse-swept boundary, his stay at the wicket was cut short by Suresh Raina, while new batsman Hamilton Masakadza (11) hit two fours before Mishra saw him off.
Raza, meanwhile, having completed his half-century, started to play freely.
He stole a four, followed by a six over deep midwicket off a Vinay Kumar over, but wickets kept falling at the other end and the hosts managed to reach 167 for five in 41 overs.
It was Mishra who finally dismissed Raza — whose 82 came off 112 balls.
In the end it was Chigumbura’s cameo that enabled Zimbabwe cross the 225-run mark.
The next match will be played at the same venue on July 26.
Vusi Sibanda lbw b Mishra 34
Sikandar Raza b Mishra 82
Sean Williams b Raina 15
Hamilton Masakadza b Mishra 11
Brendan Taylor c Raina b Unadkat 12
Malcolm Waller b Mohammed Shami 2
Elton Chigumbura not out 43
Tinotenda Mutombodzi c Dhawan b Vinay Kumar 8
Prosper Utseya not out 8
Extras (b 2, lb 7, w 4) 13
Total (Seven wickets in 50 overs) 228
Fall of wickets: 1—72 (Sibanda, 21.5 overs), 2—105 (Williams, 30.6), 3—119 (Masakadza, 33.4), 4—162 (Taylor, 38.4), 5—166 (Waller, 40.1), 6—176 (Sikandar Raza, 43.1), 7—205 (Mutombodzi, 46.2)
Vinay Kumar 9—1—57—1
Mohammed Shami 10—1—45—1
Jaydev Unadkat 10—1—39—1
Ravindra Jadeja 10—3—33—0
Amit Mishra 10—1—43—3
Rohit Sharma c Taylor b Chigumbura 20
Shikhar Dhawan c Waller b Jarvis 17
Virat Kohli c Sibanda b Utseya 115
Ambati Rayudu not out 63
Suresh Raina c Sikandar Raza b Utseya 0
Dinesh Karthik not out 8
Extras (lb 1, w 5, nb 1) 7
Total (Four wickets in 44.5 overs) 230
Fall of wickets: 1—26 (Dhawan, 6.3 overs), 2—57 (Sharma, 12.6), 3—216 (Kohli, 41.3), 4—216 (Raina, 41.5)
Kyle Jarvis 8—0—40—1
Tendai Chatara 9—0—30—0
Elton Chigumbura 5—0—30—1
Prosper Utseya 10—0—34—2
Tinotenda Mutombodzi 7.5—0—65—0
Sean Williams 3—0—18—0
Hamilton Masakadza 2—0—12—0
Toss: India chose to field
Series: India lead the five—match series 1—0
Debuts: Ambati Rayudu (India) and Jaydev Unadkat (India)
Umpires: Bruce Oxenford (Australia) and Russel Tiffin (Zimbabwe)
TV umpire: Jeremiah Matibiri (Zimbabwe)
Match referee: Chris Broad (England)
Reserve umpire: Langton Rusere (Zimbabwe)