With their high rating in ICC’s ODI rankings, India should have done much better than contriving to play in the hands of the Zimbabweans in the first of the 3-match ODI series. Elton Chigumbura won the toss and asked India to bat first. Of the 8 Indian batsmen, who came out to bat, 5 of them added only 10 runs to India’s total of 255/6 in 50 overs. Other than Ambati’s relatively slower 124, Stuart Binny’s knock of 77 off 76 balls was largely responsible for Indian crossing 250 runs. Rayudu’s effort cannot be discounted because he kept running out of partners and had to hold one end, even if it amounted to the drop in the run-rate. In any case the target of 256 was not insurmountable. When Zimbabwe came on to chase, their start was stifled with India’s bowlers taking a few early wickets and the hosts found themselves under some pressure. But skipper Chigumbura took the reins in his hand and engineered a smart turnaround. In the last 5 overs, Zimbabwe needed 50. That was tough because Chigumbura couldn’t get adequate support from his batsmen. However the captain continued hopefully and reached his second ODI century. When 10 runs were needed off the last over, skipper Ajinkya Rahane called Bhuvneshwar Kumar to bowl the last six balls. Kumar justified the faith reposed in him and when 6 were required off the last delivery, Kumar produced a Yorker that couldn’t have been lofted out of the ground and as India won by 4 runs, every Indian fielder sighed in relief.
When India began their innings after being asked by Zimbabwe after the toss, Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay were expected to produce a rollicking first wicket stand. Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni were not in the team but there were other equally capable batsmen. Somehow, India bought trouble straightaway as Vijay couldn’t resist the temptation of fending to an away going ball from Brian Vitori and guided the nick to Sibanda in the second slip. That was the fourth over and India had not even crossed the double-digit score by then. It showed the pressure that the Zimbabwe bowlers were able to exert on the Indians. After Vijay, Ambati Rayudu joined his captain and the two batsmen were more intent on saving the wicket. Rahane got out in the 18th over and by then, the scoring rate had dropped to less than 4 an over. In the next 7 overs, India lost three more wickets as Manoj Tewary, Robin Uthappa and Kedar Jadhav fell cheaply. The innings tottered at 87/5 in 25th over and looked headed to an early collapse. But Rayudu and Stuart Binny kept their heads down and resurrected India with an admirable 160-run sixth wicket stand. Binny fell to an outside edge that was taken by the keeper in the 49th over after a brilliant 76-ball 77 studded with 6 fours and 2 sixes. Rayudu and Axar Patel added 8 more as India finished with 255/6 in the 50th over. Rayudu’s 133-ball 124 proved invaluable in the end, howsoever slow he scored those runs. .
Zimbabwe began their chase slowly as Indian bowling attack didn’t allow them too many liberties in the early overs. They also lost opener Chamu Chibhabha, who tickled a Bhuvneshwar Kumar delivery to second slip in 5th over, when the score had reached 16. Zimbabwe’s second wicket fell at 47 in 13th over and then Axar Patel struck twice in 23rd and 25th overs to reduce Zimbabwe to 94/4. With more than 162 runs to get in the last 25 overs and top order gone, Zimbabwe were in trouble. But captain Elton Chigumbura had no intention of giving up yet. He found a good company in Sikandar Raza and added 48 runs with him for the fifth wicket and Graeme Cremer proved another good partner for Chigumbura as the two them carried the score close to the victory target with the seventh wicket stand of 86. But after Cremer was out, Chigumbura played single-handed and with his tenacious effort, Zimbabwe required 10 off the last over from Bhuvi Kumar. The Indian speedster bowled superbly and allowed only 5 runs and Zimbabwe lost by 4 runs in a thrilling last-ball finish.
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