Zimbabwe needs all the help it can get if it is to compete with such a talented Indian side; instead the players were handicapped not only by the loss of a useful toss, but by failing to help themselves.
In the morning, India’s seamers bowled with impressive control up front as the 9.00am start provided some swing, before Amit Mishra’s googlies ensured that Zimbabwe was unable to sufficiently up the tempo on its way to 228 for 7 - a score that was neither embarrassing nor competitive. In the afternoon, Kohli ensured there would be no hiccups in the chase.
Kohli shared in a 159-run stand for the third wicket with Ambati Rayudu, who was welcomed to international cricket with a flat pitch and a Zimbabwean side that was unable to apply pressure either with the ball or in the field. Not only were loose deliveries common, but singles were leaked by some poor ground fielding.
Without any real scoreboard pressure, Rayudu was content to anchor the innings, hitting just four fours in an unbeaten innings of 63 from 84 balls. At the other end, Kohli batted at around a run-a-ball throughout his knock, providing the only genuine excitement of the afternoon in the form of some breathtaking drives.
So easily did the runs come that it could easily be argued that they lacked a bit of value, but it would be difficult to knock the quality of India’s bowling. R Vinay Kumar, Shami Ahmed and Jaydev Unadkat, the debutant, had the benefit of lateral movement in the opening ten overs, yet their accuracy was excellent as just two loose deliveries aided boundaries.
With Ravindra Jadeja conceding only 33 runs in his ten overs the Zimbabwean batsmen, who were understandably circumspect at the start of the innings, struggled to get going. Each time they threatened to do so, Mishra would sneak in a googly and knock them back to square one.
Mishra’s wrong ’un accounted for Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza Butt, whose 82 was the top score of the innings and the only real bright spot for Zimbabwe. Although he enjoyed a slice of fortune when he was dropped at slip by Kohli off the bowling of Jadeja when he was on 28, Raza batted first with patience and then with measured aggression until his inexperience got the better of him as three figures came into sight.
His dismissal in the 44th over left Elton Chigumbura to do all the late hitting, and although he obliged with an unbeaten 43 from 34 deliveries, Zimbabwe needed India’s batsmen to have an off-day if it was going to cause an upset.
There was a glimmer of hope when Kyle Jarvis rushed Shikhar Dhawan with a short ball that the left-hander pulled to fine leg and Chigumbura had Rohit Sharma caught behind, but the Kohli-Rayudu alliance soon stamped it out.
Prosper Utseya provided some late cheer for the small Harare Sports Club crowd when he had Kohli caught at long-off and Suresh Raina caught at cover in the space of three deliveries, but Dinesh Karthik and Rayudu finished the job, with the latter ending the match with a crunching drive to the extra cover boundary.