Zimbabwe posted a good total on the board. And Indian top order had a rare failure today. With Virat Kohli getting out in a weird fashion, the Bleed Blue men looked in a state of bother. Dhoni and Raina came to rescue the no-where going innings of team India and the CSK duo handsomely chased down the target with a couple of deliveries and an over to spare.
Brendan Taylor, in his last match for Zimbabwe, unfurled a slew of thunderous strokes to power them to a good total on the board. Dripping with brilliant stroke-play, Taylor lit up the Eden Park stadium. In particular, he took a heavy toll of Indian spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin. He used reverse sweeps, sweeps and danced down the wicket to check in a series of marvellous strokes.
In the slog overs too, Taylor was in imperious touch as he collected boundaries at will in the 38th over of the innings. He soon composed his century in just 99 balls and reached the landmark in style by ramping Mohammed Shami for a six. He became the first player from Zimbabwe to score back-to-back centuries in World Cups. He now also has the most number of hundreds for Zimbabwe in ODIs.
Once Taylor completed his hundred, he thumped Jadeja for 24 runs in the 41st over. It included two sixes and three boundaries. Craig Ervine played the second fiddle to Taylor in what turned out to be a partnership dominated by Zimbabwe’s captain. Once both the batsmen were dismissed, Sikandar Raza, with his pyrotechnics tried to make sure that Zimbabwe’s innings won’t run out of steam, but the pacers came back strongly to bowl out the opposition.
India now have bowled out the opposition in every match in this World Cup. It was Taylor’s ability to play late and showcase good wrist-work that helped him to negotiate the Indian spinners. It has to be remembered that Sean Williams played a key role as well. Williams played with a full face of the bat, before using his feet and the depth of the crease to smash Ashwin for 16 runs in a single over. Williams was finally dismissed for a breezy innings of 50 in just 57 deliveries.
Earlier, the pacers bowled superbly to put the Indian team in pole position. Both Umesh Yadav and Shami bowled with unrelenting control and extracted bounce to pick up wickets with the new ball. Zimbabwe’s top-order batsmen paid the price for hanging back in the crease. However, Taylor and to a lesser extent, Williams, scripted a fine turnaround.
For India, Mohit Sharma made his mark with his variations and snared three wickets. Shami and Umesh took three wickets as well. Both the spinners struggled, especially with short straight boundaries in place. When taylor smashed Jadeja for 25 runs in the 41st over, it looked like 300 was a certainty, but the Indian bowlers came back well to take the last 6 wickets for just 52 runs.
India were given a real scare before they won a riveting contest that kept the jam-packed crowd hooked to the game. It was the experienced duo of Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni, who resurrected India’s fortunes after they lost the wickets of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Virat Kohli. It was Raina, who initially tried to break the shackles by clouting Sean Williams for a couple of sixes. Dhoni started his innings cautiously, before imperiously smashing Solomon Mire for two boundaries. Both the batsmen also stole singles from under the very noses of Zimbabwe’s fielders.
Raina then went on a hitting spree that included a mighty heave across the line off Tinashe Panyangara for a six and glorious strokes off Hamilton Masakadza. Raina soon completed a masterful hundred and Dhoni for the umpteenth time, rose to the occasion under pressure to compose a fifty, as Zimbabwe sloped towards a gut-wrenching defeat. With this win, Dhoni now has 10 consecutive victories in World Cups.
It has to be said that Zimbabwe’s seamers, Tendai Chatara and Panyangara, bowled with good control early on to put them in a position of strength. Both of them generated a bit of swing. The batsmen didn’t help their cause by showing poor technique. The story could have been different, but Masakadza dropped a sitter to give Raina a reprieve. Zimbabwe’s bowlers struggled to make an impact in the slog overs as well.
Suresh Raina was declared man of the match.
Zimbabwe 287 for 10 in 48.5 overs
India 288 for 4 in 48.4 overs