India canter home
India 211 for 3 (Sehwag 90, Tendulkar 44) beat Zimbabwe 208 for 6 (Streak 59*) by 7 wickets with 12.2 overs to spare
Heath Streak top-scored for the second match in a row for Zimbabwe
© Getty Images
The third match of the VB Series, at Hobart, resulted in a comprehensive win for India, after yet another worrying top-order collapse prevented Zimbabwe from reaching a competitive total. Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar put on their second century stand of the series as India achieved the 209-run target with 12.2 overs to spare to take home a bonus point as well. Heath Streak top-scored for Zimbabwe with an unbeaten 59 and troubled the Indian openers early on, but was let down by most of his team-mates.
India's opening pair initially approached batting with caution. Having done that, Tendulkar got into his groove and split the field with languid ease, bringing out a range of strokes that had gathered cobwebs during the Test series. The cut over point, the expansive drives, and a loft over mid-off were all on display. At the other end, Sehwag, who had lost his touch temporarily, found his variety of strokes again, much to the bowlers' chagrin.
After surviving when Tatenda Taibu put down a difficult chance, Sehwag rubbed in the mistake that very over, picking a delivery from Sean Ervine and putting it into the stands at midwicket. Sehwag brought his wrists into play often, pulling balls from outside off stump to midwicket, and standing high and punching through cover. And when Raymond Price bowled to him, spectators at midwicket were under constant threat.
But Price wasn't exactly powerless. He nearly had Tendulkar caught at cover, but for a straightforward chance being put down by Streak. Tendulkar's masterclass ended the next over, when he played down the wrong line and was bowled by Ervine for 44 (129 for 1). After missing out on Tendulkar's wicket, Price had his sights set on Sehwag (90), who played one shot too many, and spooned a catch to cover (158 for 2). Hemang Badani (15) made a minimal contribution, before playing an expansive drive and nicking a ball to Taibu (172 for 3). Sourav Ganguly then came out to score 32 of the 37 runs India needed, and took the team home by seven wickets.
Earlier, though Streak held firm at one end, he needed support. It came in the form of Ervine, who smashed an unbeaten 48 off just 33 balls. Both batsmen took their chances, and raised a rambunctious 93-run partnership off only 72 balls. They ran hard, hit harder, and India's bowlers, who had given a good account of themselves so far, didn't know what to do. Anil Kumble bowled eight overs for 19, but then ran into Ervine, who hit a six over cover, and helped himself to 19 more off Kumble's last two overs. Ajit Agarkar's last over was taken apart for 20, after the first seven had gone for 19. A spectacular six over long-on preceded an even grander hit out of the ground over midwicket. Later that over, Streak flayed one to deep extra cover to reach his fifty. It was the kind of batting display that made you forget the bad start, until India put the target in perspective.
India's bowlers choked the runs and took wickets at regular intervals to keep Zimbabwe on the mat. The openers played watchfully for three overs, before Vusi Sibanda ran for a single that might have been on if Inzamam had been the fielder. Instead, Yuvraj Singh, at point, dived, stopped, and flung the ball to the bowler's end, and Sibanda (12) was found short of his crease (14 for 1).
Stuart Matsikenyeri played tentatively throughout his stay and scored 9 before attempting a full-blooded whack off Irfan Pathan to the leg side, only to loop it up gently for Badani to take a simple catch at cover (36 for 2).
Shortly after, Kumble slipped a googly through Mark Vermeulen (2), bringing an end to a scratchy 24-ball innings (48 for 3). The next three batsmen got themselves out: Stuart Carlisle (37) played across the line to a straight one from Sehwag, Grant Flower (15) patted a ball back to the bowler, and Taibu somehow converted a full-length delivery from Badani into a yorker (114 for 6). It was at this stage that Ervine walked out to join Streak, and show the top order how things should be done. But it wasn't enough, as India bludgeoned their way to victory, turning the three-team series more and more into a two-horse race.