December 5, 2000

Ganguly's century takes India 2-0 up

Saurav Ganguly's 16th ODI hundred coerced Zimbabwe into submission to give the hosts a 2-0 lead in the series at the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera. The visitors hardly assisted their own cause with an undistinguished display in the field. To compound their woes, the bowlers chose the occasion to spray 16 wides with reckless abandon as India raced to 306 with the match as good as won. In comparison to Ganguly's torrential effort, there was little to tickle the palate in Zimbabwe's reply. They did not remotely threaten to show an intent of pursuing their target, the eventual margin of defeat being 61 runs.

The crowds had thronged to Motera for India's first ODI at the venue in seven years and the fervour of the multitides was very much apparent. Roars of 'Ganapati Bappa Moriya' in salutation to the presiding deity of these parts rent the ground as the Indians set about the Zimbabwe attack. Having acquired the right to make first use of a placid wicket, Ganguly paced his innings to perfection, finding a willing collaborator in Rahul Dravid. The Indian skipper did not rate the 144 (152 balls, 8 fours, 6 sixes) his best innings, conceding that honour to his 153 against New Zealand at Gwalior last season.

Zimbabwean countenances grew increasingly forlorn after having savoured an early and isloated success when Sachin Tendulkar fell for eight. A Friend special that lifted disconcertingly off the wicket got a nibble through to Andy Flower. Tendulkar stood his ground waiting for umpire Hariharan to raise the finger and the TV replay suggested the ball may have brushed shirt sleeve rather than glove. However there was no noticeable diminishing of the crowd's ardour as Rahul Dravid joined the proceedings.

Early in his innings, the Indian skipper hadn't succeeded, often enough for his liking, in finding the gaps in the off side with his usual flourish. His resulting frustration was taken out on the spin troika of Murphy, Viljoen and Marillier. Ganguly's first fifty had six fours but no sixes. He rectified that defect spectacularly as the ball disappeared over the fence six times from then on. The 44th over of the innings, by Marillier, was the most punitive with 21 runs accruing from it. Dravid too showed positive intent right from his appearance in the middle. His running between the wickets was not the most assured but the runs kept accumulating steadily. The partnership was worth 175 when it was terminated by a smart piece of work by Streak. The Zimbabwe skipper threw down the stumps from midoff as Dravid ventured out of his crease in response to a powerful drive by Ganguly. His 62 (88 balls) included three fours.

Yuvraj Singh played an astonishing sweep off Marillier to third man, so wide an arc did his bat encompass. In the same over he was lucky to be given not out by Hariharan as the ball clipped his outside edge en route to Flower and he also survived a dropped chance before falling for a brisk 17. Sunil Joshi and Hemang Badani applied more salt into the gaping Zimbabwe wound with some late blows and the 300 came up in the final over of the innings. The last ball by Streak beat Andy Flower to go for four byes as India finished at 306/5, the last ten overs having produced a prohibitive 110.

The loss of two early wickets never really gave Zimbabwe any sort of foundation from which to make a spring. Marillier who suffered the agony of conceding 44 runs in five overs with the ball had his off stump tilted back while playing an expansive shot across the line. Zaheer produced a vicious incutter to send back Carlisle who had potered around for 25 balls to make a solitary run. Although Campbell had begun aggressively with three boundaries in the first four overs of the innings, these twin blows had the effect of curbing his intensity.

Tendulkar was brought on in the 13th over and his off spinners received good purchase with immediate effect. Having made 32 (38 balls), Campbell failed to negotiate a Tendulkar delivery that spun across the face of his bat to give Rahul Dravid at slip a simple catch. Andy Flower unleashed a couple of patented reverse sweeps off Tendulkar that sped to the boundary and a man was soon stationed at fine leg to freeze that scoring stroke. His brother Grant did not keep him company for long, being caught at point in Sunil Joshi's second over.

Sridharan Sriram who did not get to bat despite five Indian wickets falling, showed that he could be a handy customer with the ball. Although Vijay Dahiya fluffed a stumping in his first over to relieve Andy Flower, Sriram did have the satisfaction of snaring the prize wickets of Guy Whittall and Andy Flower in successive overs. Hemang Badani and Yuvraj Singh both got to test out their skills with the ball, taking the count of left arm spinners used by India to four. Flower and Heath Streak top scored with 51 apiece and Sriram finished with a haul of 3/47 as the proceedings limped to their inevitable but desultory end.