OPENERS Shikhar Dhawan and Shubman Gill struck fluent unbeaten half-centuries as India raced to a crushing 10-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in their first One-Day International cricket match at the Harare Sports Club yesterday.
Deepak Chahar’s probing new-ball spell on his impressive return after six months followed by a century stand between in-form openers Dhawan and Gill hurtled Zimbabwe to their 13th straight ODI loss to India.
Chahar’s swing, Prasidh Krishna’s bounce and Axar Patel’s accuracy helped them bag three wickets apiece to bowl the hosts out for 189 before Dhawan and Gill hunted the target down with nearly 20 overs to spare.
India’s pace bowlers utilised the early moisture and swing to trouble Zimbabwe’s top order, which had hardly scored against Bangladesh too. Chahar and Co. reduced Zimbabwe to 31 for 4 and then 110 for 8 before a counter-attacking ninth-wicket stand of 70 off 65 balls between Brad Evans and Richard Ngarava lifted them to a somewhat respectable total.
Chahar started gingerly before he sent back the hosts’ top order in an opening burst of 7-0-27-3, in which he swung the ball both ways and had Innocent Kaia and Tadiwanashe Marumani caught behind by the ninth over.
Seven balls after Marumani fell in the ninth over, the returning Sean Williams lasted just three balls when he edged Mohammed Siraj to first slip. Five balls later, Chahar’s late outswing beat Wessley Madhevere to trap him lbw for 5, and Zimbabwe were four down in 10.1 overs.
It was down to Chakabva and Raza again. Chakabva instilled some confidence when he bashed three fours in the space of eight balls, and both batters used the DRS to get on-field lbw decisions overturned off Chahar and Kuldeep Yadav, respectively.
But Prasidh’s double-strike dented Zimbabwe further when he had Raza caught at slip and Ryan Burl threw his wicket away by holing out on the leg side to leave the hosts reeling on 83 for 6.
When Axar struck in successive overs by removing Chakabva and Luke Jongwe, it looked like Zimbabwe would be skittled for under 150, but Ngarava and Evans fought back with a flurry of boundaries off both pace and spin as conditions improved for batting. They started by rotating the strike and then switched to clean hitting to force bowling changes on India. Evans was more attacking of the two whereas Ngarava started slowly but picked up pace as the stand neared the 50-mark and even swung Axar for a massive six over long-on before he was bowled by Prasidh in the 40th over. Axar took the last wicket, which was also his 50th in ODIs.
An asking rate of under four an over in favourable batting conditions was hardly going to trouble an Indian batting line-up. Dhawan and Gill were cautious against the moving ball and hardly took any risk early on. Dhawan started the chase with two fours and hogged the strike in the first powerplay in which he scored 24 out of India’s 43 and Zimbabwe had already gifted 13 extras by then.
Dhawan was beaten a few times by Victor Nyauchi’s outswingers early on, but he also attacked with pulls and cuts whenever the bowlers pitched it short. He also got a life on 32 in the 13th over when he was dropped at square leg off Williams. He soon reached his 38th ODI fifty, his third in four innings, by when Gill had also opened up with three fours in the square region on the off side in one Evans over.
Gill started attacking more when he neared his fifty and brought up the landmark by dispatching two full tosses from Burl through the covers in the 25th over. He started the next over with a four and a six through and over midwicket that took India to 150, and he even overtook Dhawan in the next over. As boundaries came more easily, Dhawan hit the winning runs by pulling Evans behind square to remain unbeaten on 81 with Gill on 82 not out.
India now have 13 consecutive ODI wins against Zimbabwe – their most against a single opponent.
The second ODI will be played tomorrow and the third on Monday, both at the same venue – Harare Sports Club.
India 192 for 0 (Gill 82*, Dhawan 81*) beat Zimbabwe 189 (Chakabva 35, Ngarava 34, Axar 3-24, Chahar 3-27, Prasidh 3-50) by 10 wickets
ZIMBABWE: Tadiwanashe Marumani, Innocent Kaia, Sean Williams, Wessly Madhevere, Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva (capt/wkt), Ryan Burl, Luke Jongwe, Bradley Evans, Victor Nyauchi, Richard Ngarava
INDIA: KL Rahul (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Shubman Gill, Ishan Kishan, Deepak Hooda, Sanju Samson (wkt), Axar Patel, Deepak Chahar, Kuldeep Yadav, Prasidh Krishna, Mohammed Siraj – ESPNCricinfo