Just to prove that their first win over India wasn't an upset at all, Zimbabwe won even more convincingly - with a bonus point this time, making their qualification for the final a distinct possibility
Just to prove that their first win over India wasn't an upset, Zimbabwe won even more convincingly - with a bonus point this time, making their qualification for the final a distinct possibility. A combination of disciplined bowling and fielding, and directionless batting from India, meant Zimbabwe were chasing an ordinary total. Just to show the pitch had no demons that could justify a total of 194, Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza punished the bowlers, adding 128 runs in 26.3 overs.
The pitch wasn't exceptionally slow nor did it have much movement. Even without a specialist new-ball bowler, Zimbabwe choked India's scoring, and kept getting regular wickets. India didn't help themselves with a 1980s-style opening that was lacking in intent, followed by the quick departure of the openers, and then the run-outs of two of their mainstays, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina.
Zimbabwe's attack might be built on four spinners and a military-medium bowler, but they were as aggressive as fast bowlers - in intent, in field placings and in body language. Greg Lamb, who bowled a fine mixture of offbreaks and floaters that went straight on, was the pick of the bowlers with the wickets of the openers in back-to-back overs after they had consumed almost 19 overs for 63 runs. There were 182 dot balls in the innings, and just 12 boundaries - that too thanks to some late hitting from Ravindra Jadeja, who escaped two plumb lbws before going on to score 51.
It was a strange ceasefire at the top of the innings: India kept waiting for poor deliveries, Zimbabwe for loose shots. Andy Blignaut and Ray Price, the opening bowlers, gave no free scoring opportunities but Dinesh Karthik and M Vijay sought no adventure. Only 26 runs came in the first 10 overs, five of them in wides, as the bowlers consciously tried to cut out shots through the off side and ended up bowling down the leg side.
Both batsmen had put themselves under pressure with that slow start, making it imperative to not get out after wasting so many overs. And get out they did, following each other to the pavilion. If Karthik got too adventurous with a reverse-sweep, Vijay charged at Lamb and fell to a floater that went straight as opposed to breaking in. While it was smart bowling, it could also be argued that Lamb had been bowling straighter ones throughout his spell, and it wasn't as big a variation as the sight of Vijay swinging way inside its line suggested.
Zimbabwe were not going to let India's middle order play the game of four singles an over followed by a late assault. In as late as the 23th over, they had six men inside the circle, and the slip hardly ever moved out. Virat Kohli soon fell to a straighter one from Prosper Utseya. Raina, an over after a misunderstanding with Rohit, went for a single that wasn't there, and paid the price. Soon Rohit went for a tight single but Jadeja lacked the urgency, sending him back straight to the pavilion. Fifty-eight for 0 after 16 overs was good enough for Zimbabwe, 95 for 5 was a dream.
Jadeja got favours from umpires at either end even before he was set, but Yusuf Pathan wasn't so lucky. And despite a 35-run batting Powerplay, India had hardly given their bowlers anything to defend.
And the bowlers again failed to impress. Despite a slow start, thanks to the move of opening with Pragyan Ojha, Zimbabwe raced to 76 by the end of 15 overs. Once again it was Taylor who started the assault. After four quiet overs, he punched Ashok Dinda on the up, square of the wicket, and suddenly it seemed strokeplay was not that difficult at all. Masakadza followed lead, charging at Ojha and lofting him over mid-on.
In the next two overs, Dinda and Umesh Yadav tried to intimidate Taylor, and were pulled for a four and a six. There was time for a stylish extra-cover drive too, and Masakadza got his own back at Amit Mishra by welcoming him with two fours in his first over. In the previous match, Mishra had done the batsmen in with a googly. And as soon as the fielding restrictions were lifted, India inexplicably spread the field. Wisdom, conventional or otherwise, would suggest an attacking approach.
By the time India realised they needed to attack, Taylor had reached his fifty, Zimbabwe had crossed 100, and India's first set of consecutive losses to Zimbabwe was all but sealed. In the second match of the tournament, when India were on their way to chasing Sri Lanka's target, Virat Kohli and Rohit gestured to the dressing room, wanting to take the Powerplay. They were not allowed to. Zimbabwe, though, showed much more clarity of thought, imposing the field restrictions in the 31st over, and finished the game off with 11.4 overs to spare.