Spinners take India to comfortable win
India registered their first win of the tour against Zimbabwe after their spinners choked the life out of the middle of the hosts' innings. Zimbabwe came out all bats blazing, but charred themselves as well, losing too many wickets early, and let spinners dominate proceedings after that. India stuttered in the chase, getting reduced to 48 for 4, but Yusuf Pathan and Virat Kohli carried them home.
Zimbabwe were 41 for 2 after four overs when spin was introduced, but Pragyan Ojha, R Ashwin and Piyush Chawla did to Zimbabwe what their spinners were used to doing to others. That the slow bowlers went for 57 in 14 overs among them, and that there was a spell of 59 deliveries without a boundary, underlined Zimbabwe's trouble. Ojha also registered the most economical Twenty20 figures for India.
Chamu Chibhabha, who had a career strike-rate of 80.64 before today, surprised India with four fours and a six off the first 18 balls he played, but the spinners reined him and his team-mates in - the high point for the slow bowlers was the Chawla googly which dismissed Chibhabha in the 11th over.
Zimbabwe made a hectic start with Chibhabha and Brendan Taylor getting stuck into the medium-pacers despite the loss of Hamilton Masakadza in the first over. Ashok Dinda assisted them, conceding two free hits in his first two overs. R Vinay Kumar's back-of-a-length deliveries were punished by the pull-happy batsmen, but he came back with a slower delivery that trapped Taylor, who played a horrible shot.
Chibhabha was happy to sit back and pull or cut length deliveries, but the spinners thwarted him. Tatenda Taibu fell in Ashwin's first over - the innings' sixth - and Craig Ervine struggled to alternate strike. A spell of six overs for 32 runs was followed by the googly that deceived Chibhabha, who had gone from 27 off 18 balls to 40 off 40, equaling his personal best.
Ervine, at the other end, was troubled not by the spin, but by the lack of it. A shortage of singles meant the pressure increased at the other end, and Elton Chigumbura fell while trying to play the big sweep against Ojha. The straighter one again proved valuable when Ojha trapped Greg Lamb in the same over, making it 81 for 6 in the 14th. Ervine was 12 off 24 at the time.
Ervine finally broke the boundary drought in the 18th over, hitting Yusuf Pathan over extra cover. He managed one more four in the next, but was bowled by Dinda, with 30 off 42 to his name, which meant there was no flourish in the end either.
Chris Mpofu couldn't do much with the bat in the last over, but removed India's openers early: M Vijay with a slower ball and Naman Ojha with a short one that caught the glove even as the batsman looked to leave it down the leg side. Suresh Raina eased the situation with 28 off 17, but Ray Price struck in the eighth over, removing both Raina and Rohit Sharma.
Yusuf and Kohli counterattacked by hitting a six and a four immediately. Yusuf then hit two sixes and a four in the next three overs. That was enough to take the steam out of Zimbabwe's effort, and Kohli rubbed it further in, hitting Mpofu for a six and a four in the 13th over.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo