A chancy knock from Shikhar Dhawan (116) and good supporting role from Dinesh Karthik (69) laid the foundation for India to post 294 for eight in the second One-Day International (ODI) against Zimbabwe at Harare.
A 167-run stand between Dhawan and Karthik for the fifth wicket helped India recover from an early scare after Zimbabwean bowlers put their heart and soul into conditions that seemed favourable for bowling.
Brendon Taylor was quick to put India in to bat after winning the toss. Brian Vitori, who was brought in for Tinotenda Mutombodzi, put the Indians on the backfoot early on. Rohit Sharma could not last very long in his 100th ODI as Vitori sent him back in the very first over. Tapping into early movement, Vitori bowled with a scrambled seam and forced Rohit to attempt a drive. Rohit went for it and a thick edge carried to Vusi Sibanda at second slip. Vitori was using the conditions well and getting the ball to shape away from the left-handed opener Dhawan as well. He tested the Indian opener by bowling at inviting lengths early on but Dhawan was happy to defend most of them away.
Dhawan was finding it tough in the middle but dug it in to play a long innings. He was lucky to get away with two early chances — first when he was caught off a no-ball and later when Taylor dropped a straightforward chance. The Southpaw did well to make most of what was offered to him and scored a crucial century to guide India on a day when Zimbabwe’s bowlers were out to prove a point.
Skipper Virat Kohli too was made to work hard for his runs. Vitori unnerved him with his tight line and the hint of late movement. So much that he grew impatient and played a blind swing, only for it to fall in no-man’s land. However, he couldn’t ride his luck for too long as he was dismissed in the seventh over. He tried to play the ball towards mid-wicket but ended up lobbing it to Malcolm Waller at mid-on who had to dive forward to take a low catch. Kohli stood his ground for the umpire to check with the TV replays. Replays weren’t entirely convincing but the umpires ruled Kohli out. He was miffed, but had to walk away anyway.
Ambati Rayudu walked out to join Dhawan as India were caught unaware by a spirited Zimbabwe side. But, the former struggled to get his eye in. He managed just five runs off 24 deliveries before Vitori came back to end his misery. A soft dismissal in the end as Rayudu reached out to a delivery outside the off-stump but could only find the cover fielder. He had shown great resilience in the first game when the ball was coming on to the bat a lot easier but here he struggled and eventually perished.
Dhawan’s next batting partner was Suresh Raina, who would have wanted to make use of the situation to revive his form. But, Taylor made up for his dropped catch of Dhawan by taking a sharp one down the leg side to send back Raina for just four runs. At this stage, India were down to 65 for four in 17 overs.
Zimbabwe had done exceptionally well to utilise the favourable conditions and the two new balls rule to perfection. At the fall of Raina’s wicket, Karthik walked in to bat. This duo began to rebuild the Indian innings.
The runs were still hard to come by but they decided to settle down at the wicket and save the aggression for a later stage. Taylor brought on part-timer Prosper Utseya to complement Elton Chigumbura in the middle overs. Dhawan was very watchful but did get an odd boundary to keep the scorecard ticking and not allow the opposition to settle down. He showed that when he slammed Tendai Chatara for three boundaries in the 22nd over after the latter had given away just 13 runs from his first five overs. Five overs later, Dhawan whipped the ball down to the deep square leg boundary to bring up his half-century.
By this stage, the duo had settled down at the wicket and were seeing the ball better. Karthik demostrated that by reverse sweeping Utseya in the 28th over. Four overs hence, with the score at 144 for four from 32 overs, the batsmen opted for the batting powerplay. During this powerplay phase, the duo brought up their 100-run stand and looked poised to switch on their attack mode very soon. They collected 11 runs from the 37th over and 13 from the 38th to put the pressure back on the home side. In the 41st over, Dhawan brought up his century. But, an over later, a bizarre mix up led to Karthik’s run out. He departed for a well-made 69 from 74 deliveries.
Zimbabwe got another breakthrough when a delivery from Utseya was played onto the stumps by Dhawan to bring an end to his gritty innings of 116. At this stage India were on 237 for six in the 45th over.
Ravindra Jadeja was looking to play a cameo towards the last few overs but Sean Williams dismissed him in the 50th over when he holed one down the throat of Elton Chigumbura deep midwicket. He scored 15 from 22 deliveries. However, Vinay Kumar assumed the role of a hitter towards the end and threw his bat around at almost everything. Following Jadeja’s wicket in the first ball of the final over, Kumar began with a straight six and followed it up with an inside out shot over the top of in field for a boundary. Williams tried to bowl fuller but was punished as Kumar launched him for another six. He brought Shami Ahmed on strike for the last ball who, to the horror of the fielding side, came down the track and finshed the over with a six. 23 runs were taken from the final over as India finished on 294 for eight.
India 294 for 8 in 50 overs (Shikhar Dhawan 116, Dinesh Karthik 69; Brian Vitori 2 for 27) vs Zimbabwe