Zimbabwe routed by 161 runs
India 226 for 6 (Kaif 65, Dhoni 56, Yuvraj 53*, Ireland 3-54) beat Zimbabwe 65 all out (Pathan 5-27, Agarkar 4-18) by 161 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
A blistering half-century from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and a well-paced effort from Yuvraj Singh gave a pallid Indian batting display some colour, but that was rendered irrelevant by a truly abysmal Zimbabwean batting effort as India romped to a 161-run victory. Irfan Pathan scalped five, and Ajit Agarkar four, with only Heath Streak and Prosper Utseya getting to double-figures as Zimbabwe were skittled for 65 in just 24.3 overs. Streak had bowled a superb spell earlier in the day to inspire a disciplined session in the field, spoilt only by late pyrotechnics from Dhoni and Yuvraj, but all the good work was undone by clueless batting that would have shamed a school team.
Brendan Taylor started the slide, bizarrely shouldering arms to a Pathan delivery that darted back, and after Zimbabwe had kept out three overs from Ashish Nehra, Ajit Agarkar was given an opportunity to demonstrate his new-ball credentials. Vusi Sibanda patted back the tamest of catches to give him the perfect start, and when Hamilton Masakadza followed, trapped in front, a rout appeared possible.
Those suspicions were duly confirmed as Pathan reaped the rewards for an incisive spell of swing bowling by cleaning up Stuart Carlisle, Tatenda Taibu and Charles Coventry in successive overs. In between Agarkar accounting for Andy Blignaut and Blessing Mahwire, Pathan had time to complete his first five-wicket haul in ODIs, bowling Gavin Ewing with one that nipped back off the seam. Utseya and Streak then staved off the humiliation of a sub-50 total before Harbhajan Singh mercifully put an end to a hideous mismatch.
It had been anything but in the morning session with Streak showing the way for a side that had been carted for 397 runs in 44 overs by New Zealand. When Dhoni arrived at the crease, the run-rate was still languishing below four-an-over, but a 103-run partnership with Yuvraj from just 87 balls utterly transformed the game. Dhoni set the stage with a clubbed six and a straight four off Utseya, who had rocked India earlier by bowling Rahul Dravid through the gate. And with the gaps suddenly opening up in the field, he added to Taibu's woes with two meaty hoicks off Blignaut, the second of which sailed over mid-on and out of the stadium to bring him a 39-ball half-century.
Emboldened by Dhoni's example, Yuvraj, who had laboured to 17 from 42 balls and struggled against the spin of Utseya and Ewing, also cut loose, smashing Anthony Ireland for two fours in an over before effortlessly lofting one over long-off to bring up 50 in 68 balls. Though Streak continued to bowl with impeccable control, finishing with 1 for 32 from his 10 overs, runs were pummelled from the other end as India set about making amends for not once finding the boundary rope for 20 overs in the middle of the innings.
The lackadaisical pace had been set by Sourav Ganguly and Mohammad Kaif after Taibu's decision to bowl first was vindicated by the first-over dismissal of Venugopal Rao. India's gamble to open with him was shown up by a beautiful outswinger from Streak as Zimbabwe bowled with far greater control in conditions that aided the swing bowlers.
Ganguly tried to break the shackles with two pulls for fours when Mahwire dropped short, but though Kaif revealed glimpses of his ability with two sweetly struck off-drives, runs were eked out in the face of some limited but tidy bowling. Worse still, there was no urgency in the running, with only 14 singles in the first 15 overs.
After a dour passage of play, Ganguly's patience finally gave, and a ludicrous attempt to pull Ireland lobbed straight to the man stationed for that very mistake. A couple of pulls from Kaif indicated greater urgency, but there was no dramatic acceleration as Zimbabwe conceded just 93 from the first 25 overs. Utseya then accounted for Dravid, and when Kaif's one-paced innings of 65 (122 balls) was ended by a splendid return catch by Ewing, a total of 200 appeared to be in the realms of fantasy.
Dhoni, however, clubbed 56 from 46 balls before mistiming one to long-off, and Yuvraj buttressed the salvage operation with aplomb as Zimbabwe's challenge started to splutter. By the time Pathan got into the swing of things, splutter had become seizure, and another inglorious chapter was written in Zimbabwe cricket's annals.
How they were out
Venugopal Rao c Taibu b Streak 0 (3 for 1)
Failed to cover the outswing, edged behind
Sourav Ganguly c Coventry b Blignaut 20 (55 for 2)
Ungainly pull straight to the man at short fine leg
Rahul Dravid b Utseya 14 (95 for 3)
Missed a quicker, flatter offbreak
Mohammad Kaif c and b Ewing 65 (121 for 4)
Brilliantly taken by Ewing on his follow-through, diving to his right
Mahendra Singh Dhoni c Mahwire b Ireland 56 (224 for 5)
Mistimed slog to long-off
Ajit Agarkar c Streak b Ireland 0 (225 for 6)
Too early into the shot, spooned to mid-off
Brendan Taylor b Pathan 3 (7 for 1)
Shouldered arms to one that darted back
Vusi Sibanda c and b Agarkar 7 (17 for 2)
Too early into the stroke, simple return catch
Hamilton Masakadza lbw Agarkar 0 (17 for 3)
Trapped in front by one that skidded through
Stuart Carlisle lbw Pathan 9 (29 for 4)
Struck on the back pad, plumb in front
Tatenda Taibu c Ganguly b Pathan 4 (30 for 5)
Chipped one to mid-on, too early into the shot
Charles Coventry b Pathan 0 (30 for 6)
Chopped one on to the stumps
Andy Blignaut lbw Agarkar 0 (35 for 7)
Caught on the crease, plumb in front
Gavin Ewing b Pathan 0 (36 for 8)
Off stump knocked back by one that nipped back
Blessing Mahwire b Agarkar 4 (43 for 9)
Played on after trying to leave the ball.
Prosper Utseya c Dravid b Harbhajan 11 (65 all out)
Inside edge onto the pad which carried to first slip
Dileep Premachandran is assistant editor of Cricinfo