Zimbabwe v India, 1st ODI, Harare July 24, 2013

Another Kohli ton in a chase, another India win


India 230 for 4 (Kohli 115, Rayudu 63*) beat Zimbabwe 228 for 7 (Raza 82, Mishra 3-43) by six wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Usually, Indian cricketers ply their trade in packed and raucous concrete bowls and have to deal with a large media contingent. The Harare Sports Club, in contrast, features vast grass banks, rudimentary stands and is ringed by trees. Only a couple of Indian journalists have made the trip to Zimbabwe to cover the series.

If that wasn't enough to ease the pressure on an Indian squad filled with understudies, the cool weather on a sunny day, the toothless Zimbabwe bowling and a benign pitch made them feel all the more comfortable. With the schooldkids dancing in the stands and plenty of fans having a leisurely lunch near the pavilion, the match seemed more like a casual afternoon game in the park, rather than an international encounter.

The intensity of the contest particularly dimmed once Virat Kohli took charge of yet another chase. Over the past three years, Kohli has developed into one of the leading batsmen in one-dayers, a reputation forged on the back of several big centuries when hunting down targets, but today's hundred - his 15th in ODIs, drawing him level with Virender Sehwag and Mohammad Yousuf - could well have been his easiest in international cricket.

The chase revolved around a 159-run stand for the third wicket between debutant Ambati Rayudu and Kohli. Rayudu first came to national attention a decade ago, when picked as a 17-year-old for an A tour of the Caribbean and was touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket. However, a tussle with his state association and a dalliance with the unofficial Indian Cricket League combined to keep him out of the India team for years. The friendly conditions were the perfect setting for Rayudu to make his debut, and he helped himself to an unbeaten half-century.

Rayudu and Kohli came together after India's opening pair of Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma departed fairly early - Dhawan after failing to control a hook, and Rohit after nicking a wide, amiable delivery to the keeper. Kohli was fluent right from the start, highlighted by a controlled drive through extra cover and a superbly timed flick to the midwicket boundary. With the asking-rate well in hand, Rayudu took his time early on to settle any nerves, mainly dealing in singles - he hit just two fours till he reached his half-century.

With the pitch having dried out, and Zimbabwe's spinners not getting much purchase, Prosper Utseya's late double-strike wasn't much more than an opportunity for the crowd to cheer.

The gulf between the two sides was clearly in evidence, though it was widened considerably by India winning the toss. The only time the pitch encouraged the bowlers was soon after the 9am start, and India's new-ball bowlers, Vinay Kumar and Shami Ahmed, had the ball swerving around though they couldn't separate the dogged Zimbabwe opening pair of Sikandar Raza and Vusi Sibanda. The openers, well aware of the early danger, concentrated on keeping wickets in hand, not bothering about the scoring rate which remained below three in the first hour.

Raza, the Sialkot-born batsman, shrugged off an indifferent start to his international career with a watchful 82 that held the innings together. The camera frequently panned to a man wearing a 'Team Raza' t-shirt, and Raza didn't disappoint his fans. The run-rate may have been wanting, and it wasn't until the 32nd over that he reached his half-century, but he then showcased his repertoire of strokes, highlighted by two sixes in the Powerplay - one a stunning straight hit over Vinay's head and the other a muscular swat over midwicket for six more.

India's spinners kept the pressure on Zimbabwe's top order. Jadeja continued to be in top form, with his steady spin fetching him 10-3-33-0 while legspinner Amit Mishra, playing his first ODI in more than two years, got three wickets. His googly was going to be a big weapon against a team that hasn't faced him too often, and it provided India the first breakthrough, as Sibanda was lbw in the 22nd over.

The disciplined bowling meant that Zimbabwe struggled to lift the scoring rate. It was only around the batting Powerplay, when Raza and Brendan Taylor - Zimbabwe's best batsman, who walked out as late as the 34th over - piled on 43 runs in five overs, that the home side finally got a move on. After Taylor departed, Raza followed, falling for 82 as he missed a short ball from Mishra. He walked off dejected, and though Elton Chigumbura reeled off a series of boundaries in an unbeaten 43 off 34 balls to lift the target to 229, it didn't prove much of a challenge for India.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naresh on July 26, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    Mishra is another spinner who has done well. Most of his wickets are taken by clean bowls. This says much about a bowler who can do this. He had a great IPL too and many great players fell to him.

  • Arjun on July 26, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    @Subin KS: scoring 200+ by any team against any team isnt something that has to be highlighted nowadays...I mean ...just because it is a minnows doesnt mean u expect an utter domination by the strong team winding up the minnows below 100 or 150....if check any of the matches between strong teams and minnows in the past 6 or 7 years ...u can see that there is a fair enough contest in most of them (not all of them)im wouldnt say Zim have played badly..nor would i say Indians have crushed Zim...i would say its premature to exaggarate the efforts of Zim...both teams played plain normal cricket...nothing to appreciate or criticize in this game.....this is not paper cricket...

  • Android on July 26, 2013, 1:22 GMT

    Virat is a realy the good plsyer of India that credit gose to India Captain MSD he encrage for youngsters

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 18:09 GMT

    Yes .. A victory is a Victory .. rather than saying India played good cricket , I think , its Zimbabwe , who played better cricket .. I accept that India went in , without their main batsmen and bowlers .. but Zimbabwe managed to score above 200 ... so we should not give all the credit to Indians alone .. If India were able to knock down all opposition wickets and were able to restrict them under 150 .. then we can say we were dominant in the game

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 16:50 GMT

    If this series is supposed to be a platform for the younger players to perform, then India needs to sit out Raina. Pujara, Mohit Sharma both deserve a chance to prove themselves. Despite the win, I was extremely disappointed with the team selection.

  • Sarma on July 25, 2013, 15:37 GMT

    Unadkat's bowling appears outstanding. Conceding just 3.90 runs per over is incredible bowling. Hope this boy goes great heights.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 14:37 GMT

    Good and Healthy competition in Indian cricket squad which was not seen a decade back. Virat continued his way and special congrats to Rayudu, making a debut after waiting for a decade for a national cap. His innings looked serene, calm quite opposite to his original nature. Hope he continues the same way he batted and it could be easy for stroke makers like Dhoni and Raina to close the innings in a style on a good Platform set by Kohli and Rayudu.

  • Anil on July 25, 2013, 14:21 GMT

    The Best Batsman in World Cricket at present in One Day matches- Period.As well as among top 3 in Test Cricket.Almost 5000 runs in ODI at an avg of 50/Strike Rate-87 and 15 Centuries with 14 of them in a winning cause at the age of 23.Would surely finish among all time Top 3 by the time he finishes playing.

  • Peace on July 25, 2013, 13:48 GMT

    Why Shami instead of Mohit Sharma? and why Rayudu instead of Pujara? these are the questions some of then fans has including me. But I am guessing Kohli going on First In First Serve basis just to have some justice to the players. Though I am from the same city of Rayudu and though I like him a lot, I am sure Pujara is much better player than him. Once Pujara gets a chance, he will stick like fevicol, and its very tough to ask him to sit on bench. and coming Shami, Kohli wants to give him a chance, because players work very hard to come to this stage, and once if they loose the place, its very hard again to come back. If shami looses his place, I think selectors will not pick him again, so this could be a last chance. Mohit definitely gets chance may be not in this series, but for sure in the next series.

  • Sai on July 25, 2013, 13:31 GMT

    Overall a good match, although a bit disappointed with the selection. I just feel that hard-working guys like Pujara, Rahane, and Mohit Sharma should get their chance. I hope Kohli understands that the South African tour coming later this year, it will be vital experience to these guys. I don't see Karthik or Raina playing in South Africa later this year, so to be honest it's better to give these guys a break. And hats off to Kohli, but as captain, I feel he should be giving chances to other players, as much as he is breaking records. I'd like to see Zimbabwe chase rather than bat first for at least 2 ODIs, apparently batting conditions are better then, and it provides an interesting match, rather than the one-sided encounter like we saw in the first ODI.