Batting and bowling inconsistencies on either side made the last match of the ODI series between India and Zimbabwe an intriguing affair. First the Indian top order collapsed and by the 22nd over, the scoreboard read 82/4. Two new batsmen, whose choices were dictated by their IPL performance, enacted a rescue act with a fifth-wicket partnership of 144 and India were back in the game. However the 50-over score of 276 for 5 wasn’t commanding from current ODI standards. That became evident as Zimbabwe nearly made a match of it by scoring 150/3 in the 35th over on the strength of Chamu Chibhabha’s determined 82 off 109 balls. With seven wickets in hand, Zimbabwe could easily score 127 in the last 15 overs. But if India recovered from a bad start, Zimbabwe did the opposite of wilting from a reasonably sound beginning. They lost their remaining 7 wickets for mere 43 runs to play in India’s hands. The 83-run victory allowed India to sweep the ODI series 3-0 under the new captain Ajinkya Rahane.
For the third consecutive time in the series, India batted first and for the third time they couldn’t put up a total that could be called commanding. In Tuesday’s match India had a bad start in which both openers were back to their dungeons by the 8th over. Both Rahane and Vijay yielded to an inspired spell by Neville Madziva. Manoj Tiwary and Robin Uthappa batted so slowly that India could only reach 68 by the 19th over. Having scored just 10 off 33 balls, Tiwary was perhaps under pressure, when he offered a leading edge to be caught and bowled. The normally ebullient Uthappa did no better as he took 44 balls for his 31 runs. With four wickets and 22 overs gone for just 82 runs, India were in a real trouble. It was here that Kedar Jadhav and debutant Manish Pandey took control. They took a little time but when they began the run feast, hopes brightened for India. The two partners jacked up the rate of scoring and tore the Zimbabwean attack to shreds. The fifth wicket stand of 144 between Jadhav and Pandey transformed the game decisively in India’s favor. The two batsmen carried through to the 47th over, when Pandey holed out in trying to step up scoring. In the remaining 19 balls Jadhav and Stuart Binny whacked up 50 runs as India finished at 276/5 in 50 overs. After Pandey’s 71 in 86 balls on debut, Kedar Jadhav came up with his maiden ODI century to finish with an unbeaten 105 off 87 balls.
India began with Bhuvneshwar Kumar as Zimbabwe came to chase 277 required for victory. But Bhuvi Kumar couldn’t get the breakthrough despite bowling a superb 6-over spell for just 12 runs. After Zimbabwe lost Hamilton Masakadza in 6th over, Chamu Chibhabha took the reins in his hand and guided the run-chase. With a bold stance, Chibhabha dominated two partnerships; 70 for second wicket with Regis Chakabva and 53 for the fourth with Richmond Mutumbami. In between, Zimbabwe were unlucky to lose Elton Chigumbura, who was trapped LBW by Murali Vijay. Incidentally Vijay, who had never taken any wickets in ODI’s; was lucky to get a maiden success with his first ball of the match. Zimbabwe looked on course at 150/3 with 91 balls remaining and 127 runs required but the fall of Richmond Mutumbami was to engineer a sudden slide. Stuart Binny was instrumental as he took out both Mutumbami and Chibhabha in successive overs. Just when Chibhabha looked dangerous, Binny extracted a pick-up shot from him over midwicket. Kedar Jadhav ran a long distance before holding the catch on the brilliant last moment dive. With the mainstay of Zimbabwe’s chase out of the picture, wickets began to tumble and the entire team got out for 193 in the 43rd over to hand India an 83-run victory. Binny claimed 3 wickets and Mohit Sharma, Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh 2 each.