Harare: Zimbabwe’s performance in the first ODI on Saturday, most dismal as they folded for 168 in 49.5 overs. That India had to chase 169 owed to the good work from the five bowlers used by Dhoni, whose decision to field on a chilly morning – play began at 9am local time – worked out well.
Twenty extras, two dropped catches and Jasprit Bumrah‘s three front-foot no-balls were in the end a blemish. Six Zimbabwe batsmen made it to double-figures, but none crossed 41 as India controlled proceedings from the time Peter Moor edged the first delivery of the game to third man for a single.
In reply, India’s start was slow, much like Zimbabwe’s had been, but the difference was that they didn’t lose as many wickets. Rahul – who got going with a crackling punch off the back foot in the seventh over – mixed watchful defense with the odd well-timed drive to remain relatively uncluttered, unlike Rayudu who pottered about 36 balls for his first nine runs and was beaten repeatedly by some very nagging medium-pace. Rahul also had a couple of problems against Zimbabwe’s stream of bustling medium-pacers, once saved by an inside edge off Tendai Chatara and another time miscuing Chigumbura over mid-off, but maintained a healthy run-rate. He never looked out of depth, perhaps an indication of the confidence that comes with two Test hundreds and a transformational IPL. Rahul’s fifty needed 57 deliveries.
Rayudu overcame his initial jitters as you would expect of a batsman who averages 45 in 31 prior ODIs, the last of which had incidentally come at this very ground a year ago. His fourth boundary was an unabashed front-foot thump over mid-off, a strong signal that he wasn’t going to be bogged down any longer, and as India’s total crossed 100 the result was a foregone conclusion.
As the runs were whittled down, the talking point became whether Rahul could get to his hundred. On 92, he clipped two past square leg. Then came a big six, putting him in unique company: Rahul is the first Indian batsman to score a hundred when opening in both ODIs and Tests.
Brief scores: India 173/1 in 42.3 overs (KL Rahul 100*, Ambati Rayudu 62*) beat Zimbabwe 168 in 49.5 overs (Elton Chigumbura 41, Jasprit Bumrah 4/28) by nine wickets