LOCAL cricket fans turned up at Harare Sports Club in their numbers for the first time in the ongoing series, only for the national cricket team to repay them with their worst display as India secured a series clinching victory in the third ODI yesterday.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
India were hardly troubled after being set a paltry victory target on 184 runs, as they silenced the big crowd by cruising to a convincing seven wicket victory with 87 balls to spare and seal the five-match series with two games still to play in Bulawayo.
Zimbabwe had earlier left themselves with a mountain to climb to keep the series alive as they produced their worst batting performance on a good batting track to stagger to a paltry 183 all-out in 46 of their allotted 50 overs after India had won the toss and elected to bowl.
After openers Vusi Sibanda (1) and Sikandar Raza (0) perished in the first two overs Zimbabwe never looked like they would recover to post a substantial total.
Skipper Brendan Taylor and Hamilton Masakadza mastered a brief period of resistance with a 65-run third wicket stand but they both fell inside four overs for 38 and 23 runs respectively followed by another duck from Malcolm Waller and Zimbabwe were in some serious trouble on 80 for six. Sean Williams’ crucial knock of 45 and some damage control by the tail-enders ensured Zimbabwe managed to get a score above 150 a sign that the wicket was good to bat on.
Leg spinner Amit Mishra was named the man of the match after taking four wickets for 47 runs but Zimbabwe only had themselves to blame for the poor batting display.
While Zimbabwe’s batsman found the going tough during their innings, it was not the same case with the touring side.
Indian captain Virat Kohli led the successful run-chase with an unbeaten 68 off 88 deliveries as the world champions finished on 187 for three in 35, 3 overs.
Suresh Raina who hit the winning runs with a boundary down to fine leg was also unbeaten on 28 from just 18 runs. Defending any total less than 240 was always going to be difficult for Zimbabwe more so for debutant seamer Michael Chinouya.
The lanky seamer will however take heart from the fact that he was the only local bowler trouble the Indian batsmen while he also managed to take a wicket on his international debut.
Zimbabwe captain Taylor expressed his disappointment on his charges’ performance.
“Getting quite frustrating now, leading up to the series the amount of work we put in, that’s not translating into results, and knowing the ability of the players, is irritating. There is still lot to play for in Bulawayo. Generally we need to work on minimising the soft dismissals and the guys need to toughen up mentally,” said Taylor during the post match presentation.
Prior to yesterday’s match Zimbabwe had failed to take advantage of promising starts to lose the first ODI by six wickets and the second match by 58 runs.
Taylor will be hoping that a change of venue will also come with a change of fortunes as the series moves to Bulawayo for the last two ODIs starting with the fourth ODI at Queens Sports Club on Thursday.