By BV Swagath
India eased to a comfortable six-wicket win in the opening ODI at Harare with Skipper Virat Kohli registering a 15th ODI century. AT Rayudu helped himself to a debut half century while sealing the Indian run chase with a huge 3rd wicket stand of 159 with Kohli.
Chasing 229 on a pitch that eased out in the afternoon, India was 57 for 2 in 13 overs. Shikhar Dhawan (17 from 21 balls) departed in the 7th over, hooking Kyle Jarvis to long leg. Rohit Sharma worked hard for a 40-ball 20 before edging a cover drive off Chigumbura to the keeper.
The run chase was sealed after those two wickets with Virat Kohli stroking his way to 115 from 108 balls with 13 fours and a six for the Man of the Match award. Debutant Rayudu ensured that he remained unbeaten in his first knock, scoring an impressive 63 from 84 balls with 4 fours. India completed the chase with 31 balls to spare.
Asked to bat first, hosts Zimbabwe crawled for most part of their innings but did well to finish up with a healthy total of 228 for 7. Opener Sikandar Raza anchored the hosts with a 112-ball 82 while Elton Chigumbura provided the finishing touches. India should find it easy to chase the target with the pitch easing out in the afternoon.
Early on it was a struggle for the Zimbabwean openers as the new balls moved quite a lot off the surface. The openers – Vusi Sibanda and Sikandar Raza managed to survive the torrid period to put up a solid start of 72. India could find its first breakthrough only in the 22nd over when Vusi Sibanda was trapped lbw by Amit Mishra with a googly. Sibanda played a boring innings of 34 from 72 balls.
The visitors picked up two more wickets to peg back Zimbabwe at 119 for 3 by the 34th over. Suresh Raina got the wicket of left-hander Sean Williams (15 from 29 balls) who was bowled with an inside edge to an arm ball. Hamilton Masakadza threatened to play some big shots and in the process was bowled through the gate by a Mishra googly.
Meanwhile, Sikandar Raza who consumed 88 balls for a maiden fifty surprised the Indians with some well connected big hits. Zimbabwe though lost two more wickets before the slog overs – Skipper Brendan Taylor caught pulling debutant Unadkat in the deep while Malcolm Waller was cleaned up by a full ball from Mohammad Shami.
Zimbabwe received a major blow when Sikandar Raza was bowled by a skidder from Mishra trying to attempt a forcing pull shot. The 27-year-old Raza scored a career best of 82 from 112 balls with 6 fours and 2 sixes. Despite having the hosts at 176 for 6 in the 44th over, India failed to clean up the tail. Elton Chigumbura, coming in at no.7, scored an unbeaten 43 (from 34 balls with 6 fours and a six) to lift Zimbabwe to 228 for 7.
Toss and Teams: India led by Virat Kohli has won the toss and asked hosts Zimbabwe to bat first in the opening ODI at Harare. The pitch looks dry but has some grass on it and the Captains think that the first hour will have something to assist the seamers and why not since it is a day match.
India has given ODI debuts to AT Rayudu and left-arm seamer Jaydev Unadkat.
Zimbabwe: Hamilton Masakadza, Vusi Sibanda, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor(C), Sean Williams, Malcolm Waller, Elton Chigumbura, Tinotenda Mutombodzi (WK), Prosper Utseya, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chatara
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (C), Dinesh Karthik (WK), Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Shami Ahmed, Vinay Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat