Zimbabwe pulled the rug from under the feet of the Indians with a creditable victory at Jodhpur, thereby registering the first victory in India. A combination of some steely resolve of the visitors and the complacency of the hosts made the win possible. The visitors made a mockery of the general consensus that the pitch will not last the distance. Not only did the pitch last, the Zimbabweans sneaked back into the game and finally emerged as victors much to the chagrin of Saurav Ganguly, the Indian skipper.
Tendulkar played more like himself after a long time unleashing powerful pulls and drives right from the start. One got the impression that Tendulkar was a shadow of himself in the recent past for reasons best known to him. The master batsman entertained the public of Jodhpur with some rousing blows as he raced to his fifty in quick time. When Tendulkar gets going, not many factors can deter him from disconcerting the bowlers. Ganguly perished early when Brian Strang managed to squeeze one through the gate as the left hander shaped to drive on the up.
Tendulkar settled down to play percentage after his initial burst in the company of Dravid. The Indians were in a position to really put the game out of the reach of the visitors when Dravid was dismissed. The collapse that followed was something inexplicable. Yuvraj Singh, the much-favoured youngster needs to be reminded that it is about time he got runs consistently. Self-confidence is alright in an individual but any youngster needs to guard himself from letting cockiness creeping into his game. Sodhi and Badani exhibited their inexperience losing their wickets in the process. Tendulkar duly completed his century and carried on to rally the Indian innings with the lower order batsmen.
Sunil Joshi and Zaheer Khan played some entertaining shots and some of them were authentic enough to make the top order batsmen proud. Joshi is making meaningful contributions with the bat of late but he is letting the team and his skipper down very badly in his main department - bowling. The visitors came back into the game in the middle overs but Zaheer Khan's clean strikes in the final over gave the hosts more than a competitive score.
Zaheer Khan and Prasad put the Zimbabweans onto the back foot grabbing three quick wickets as the top order batsmen tried to adopt aggressive methods in the early overs. Grant Flower joined his brother Andy and they tried to Zimbabwe's hopes alive with a calm rearguard act. The partnership was built more on common sense than on flamboyance, which resulted in the Indians dropping their guard. The record partnership frustrated the Indians no end and at a time when it appeared these two would take their team to victory, Grant Flower was deceived by Prasad's slower delivery.
Nkala, a highly rated all-rounder played a match winning innings when one takes the circumstances into consideration. He displayed excellent temperament and it was rather sad that he was not there to get the winning runs for his side. That part of it was left Olonga amidst great tension and he was relieved when he got the last couple of runs.
The Indians have to realise they bowled badly and the final combination also needs to be looked into. Sodhi's enthusiasm apart, there is no place for him if he does not bowl the entire quota of overs. Sriram who had a reasonable game at Ahmedabad will be a better option especially if the pitch aids spinners. It has always been a case of different strokes for different people.