HARARE – Virat Kohli cracked a century to inspire touring India to a comfortable six-wicket win over Zimbabwe on Wednesday at Harare Sports Club to lead the five-match ODI series 1-0.
The Indian stand-in captain put the host to bat after winning the toss and restricted Zimbabwe to 228 runs for the loss of seven wickets in their allotted overs.
A small total considering the cracking nature on the wicket and India did justice by utilising the batting conditions. Zimbabwe made a break through as early as the seventh over with India still on 26 runs.
India’s explosive opener Shikhar Dhawan was caught at the deep fine leg by Malcolm Waller off the bowling of Kyle Jarvis for Zimbabwe’s first wicket.
Rohit Sharma was caught behind for 20 runs by captain and wicketkeeper Brendan Taylor off seamer Elton Chigumbura with the score on 57-2 after 12.6.
The introduction of Kohli extinguished any hopes of a dream comeback by the hosts as he notched his fifth ODI ton from 102 balls. Kohli controlled the innings with gusto, occupying the crease and at the same time dispatching balls to the boundary as if he was in a batting practice.
His innings was later terminated for 115 runs from 108 deliveries that included 13 boundaries and a six in a 159-run third wicket partnership with debutant Ambati Rayadu.
The 24-year-old skipper was caught by Vusi Sibanda at long-on off Prosper Utseya. The off spinner struck again two deliveries later when he had Suresh Raina caught at extra cover by Sikandar Raza Butt for a two-ball duck. It was however, too little too late as the Asians at the point needed only 13 runs to wrap up the match.
Rayudu was unbeaten on 63 runs from 84 balls as India reached 230-4 with 31 balls remaining in the match.
Earlier, Sikandar Raza Butt scored his maiden ODI half century before he was clean bowled for 82 by leg spinner Amit Mishra. The Pakistan-born Zimbabwe opener laid a solid foundation together with his partner Vusi Sibanda before the later was trapped plum for 34 runs by Mishra in the 22nd over.
The middle order failed to compliment the opening stand falling cheaply mainly through bowled dismissals. Elton Chigumbura was the only success story in the middle order hitting six boundaries and a six for his unbeaten 43 from 34 balls at the conclusion of Zimbabwe’s innings.
Mishra was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets for 43 runs from 10 overs while Vinay Kumar, Mohammad Shami, Raina and Jaydev Unadkt, another debutant for India took a wicket apiece. The second match will be at the same venue tomorrow.