GOING - GOING - GONE FOR AN INDIAN WIN AT GUWAHATI,
Guwahati, situated in the north-eastern state of Assam, played host for the final one-day international match between India and Zimbabwe. With both teams tied at two-all, this was in effect the final.
For the hosts, they would need to win the match to make a point that they are a superior side, and for the visitors, a win would do wonders for their overall confidence. Both teams went in with one change each. For India Murali Kartik made way for all-rounder Vijay Bharadwaj, and for Zimbabwe an injured Mbangwa made way for Gary Brent.
A sizable crowd turned out at the Nehru Stadium, to watch what promised to be an exciting day of cricketing action. The visitors began well, as the openers were far from comfortable. Dinesh Mongia was lucky to survive two close leg-before appeals in a Heath Streak over, but after the initial hiccups, Mongia stepped onto the confidence pedal.
Captain Ganguly was in form, but his stay at the crease was not as long as he would have liked, as he departed after adding 28 runs. With partners making entrances and exits at the other end, Dinesh Mongia went from strength to strength as he built on his innings, dismissing balls to the boundary fence with timely precision and with an air of disdain at times. His maiden one-day hundred came off 121 balls and had eleven hits to the fence.
The new batting sensation in the shorter version of the game, Yuvraj Singh, made his way out to the middle when India were 157 for four. During his stay at the crease he blasted 75 runs off only 52 balls, and entertained the crowd with six fours and three huge sixes.
The visitors were looking at a massive total to chase when Dinesh Mongia hit the final boundary, getting India to a score of 333 for six, and he remained unbeaten with 159 runs. Zimbabwe were docked two overs, as their over rate was very slow, so the task got even tougher with 334 runs to be scored in the revised 48 overs.
Openers Campbell and Ebrahim got off to a steady start, adding 50 runs for the opening partnership, but Campbell departed soon after, leaving his side at 50 for one. This was not the ideal start, but one that could be built on. Zimbabwe's young blood flowed as Ebrahim and Travis Friend seemed to get set, and they added 61 valuable runs for the second wicket. But the partnership ended with Friend being stumped for a rapidly made 31 runs.
With the experienced Andy Flower making his way to the middle, one thought that he would steady the rumbles in the Zimbabwe foundation. But that was not to be as he went out early, leaving the base shakier than ever and victory still a far-away dream.
Nothing seemed to be going right, as Dion Ebrahim tried to play a positive shot, but mistimed it and followed Andy Flower back to the pavilion after scoring 42 runs. Zimbabwe had two new batsmen at the crease, to make the most of what was left.
Captain Carlisle was required to play a really solid knock along with the gutsy Grant Flower, and with the score on 114 for four they would have to play for pride. Carlisle and Grant added 29 runs for the fifth wicket, but Carlisle could not consolidate his score and Zimbabwe were now 143 for five.
Winning was nowhere on the horizon, but in the shorter version of the game one can never say! Grant Flower and Heath Streak started to reconstruct the innings as they put on 84 runs for the sixth wicket. The sun was beginning to peep under the horizon but Grant Flower failed to get to the half-century mark yet again as he departed after adding 48 runs off only 47 balls.
With the score 227/ for six the writing was now on the wall, and unless Zimbabwe could do a Marillier it was pack-up time for the visitors. Heath Streak stuck it out till the end, but 334 was not gettable, and with 232 on the board Zimbabwe sealed the match in India's favour.
India won the series three-two and the match handsomely with a 101-run victory. Dinesh Mongia walked away with both the Man of the Match and Man of the Series awards. And if a smile could speak a thousand words, Mongia was speaking in millions.
Stuart Carlisle spoke with an air of maturity, congratulating Yuvraj Singh and Mongia for their batting performances. He went on to say that there were many lessons that his team had learnt in both the one-day series and the Test matches. There were some glowing individual performances, and overall in the fielding department they scored much higher than the hosts. The Indian Experience on the whole was a rewarding one.
Sourav Ganguly was pleased that the young blood in the team was showing results. The upcoming Test series in the West Indies would be a totally different cup of tea, and they would begin on a clean slate.
All in all one could say that the obviously weaker side, Zimbabwe, showed that they had it within them to give the Indian tigers a huge fright in the shorter version of the game. And in the real test of the game, the visitors showed a lot of character and promise. At a time when their country was in a political mess, the Zimbabwean cricketers played on and won many an admirer in the cricket-crazy country - India.