Win toss, put opposition in, bowl opposition out cheaply, chase with minimal fuss. India ticked off those boxes once again and won the three-match ODI series after going 2-0 up, with a generous helping hand from Zimbabwe, whose shot selection contributed to an utterly inadequate total of 126.
It took India only 26.5 overs to chase it down, and while they will no doubt be gladdened by their second-string team’s successes, they will wonder when their batsmen will be genuinely tested on this tour.
KL Rahul, fresh off a debut hundred in the first match, and Karun Nair – who profited from an early life when he edged a no-ball from Tendai Chatara to the wicketkeeper – eased their way to attractive 30s, and Ambati Rayudu, batting with more freedom than in the first game, struck seven fours in an unbeaten 44-ball 41. But India will have learned nothing new about them – the target simply wasn’t enough of a challenge.
Zimbabwe had looked set for a respectable total after Vusi Sibanda and Sikandar Raza added 67 for the fourth wicket, but both fell to suicidal shots, triggering a collapse that saw the last six wickets fall for 20 runs, in the space of 9.1 overs.
Zimbabwe’s misery was compounded by Sean Williams’ absence from the batting crease. Having replaced Craig Ervine – who was out with a hamstring strain – Williams hurt his finger soon after the toss, and had to undergo scans to ascertain the extent of his injury.
Zimbabwe had looked so secure at 106 for 3, but everything changed in little more than half an hour. Sibanda had just reached his 21st ODI fifty, bringing up the landmark with a trademark pulled four off left-arm spinner Axar Patel. Raza was looking far from fluent, but the partnership was flourishing, and more than half the innings still remained. He chose that moment, off the second ball of the 26th over, to try and take on the fielder at long-on as Yuzvendra Chahal was gifted a wicket.
Chahal’s next ball was a perfectly pitched legbreak, drifting into Elton Chigumbura and causing him to misread the line as he prodded forward to defend. It looked a tight lbw decision, but replays showed the ball had pitched in line with leg stump and had turned enough to hit middle and leg.
In Chahal’s next over, Sibanda slogged at a loopy, wide legbreak, and just like Raza had done, picked out the fielder at long-on. Until that point, he had channelled all the qualities that had won him more than 100 ODI caps – the elegance, the range of strokes – and with that one shot, he now demonstrated the recklessness that has made him one of Zimbabwe cricket’s most frustrating figures.
The end came swiftly. Jasprit Bumrah, who had bowled a superb opening spell, repeatedly beating the outside edge with balls that straightened after angling into the right-handers, had Richmond Mutumbami caught behind off the inside-edge, Dhawal Kulkarni swung one past Tendai Chatara’s flick to take the off stump, and Axar speared in an arm ball to strike Muzarabani’s pad right in front. That was Zimbabwe’s ninth and last wicket: it fell with 15.3 overs still to play.
India had bowled Zimbabwe out for 168 in the first ODI, and their seamers made another impressive start on a chilly Monday morning, taking three wickets in the first ten overs. Barinder Sran bowled a few inches shorter than he had on Saturday, and didn’t generate quite as much swing, but picked up two wickets nonetheless. Hamilton Masakadza chased a wide, non-swinging ball and sliced it into third man’s hands, and Peter Moor, for the second time in a row, played around his front pad as the ball bent into him. This time, he was struck above the knee roll, and on the hop, but the umpire Russell Tiffin did not hesitate to give him out.
Chamu Chibhabha ensured he minimised the chance of lbw against Sran, batting with a slightly open stance, and looked largely comfortable against the left-armer. But he had no answer to a variation from Kulkarni that was either elaborately plotted or entirely unintended.
Having sent down five away-swingers, the bulk of them short and fairly wide of off stump, and dragged Chibhabha across his crease, he trapped him with the fuller, straighter inducker.
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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