Once again Zimbabwe contributed heavily to its own demise, gifting Shikhar Dhawan three lives on his way to a century that allowed India to recover from 65 for 4 to a formidable total of 294 for 8.
Then, having made a positive start to its reply in reaching 109 for 1 in 20 overs, Zimbabwe’s batsmen threw their wickets away to slump to 236 for 9. Whenever Zimbabwe found some momentum, all India needed to do was maintain composure, and Zimbabwe obliged by doing the rest.
That said, there was a standout performer for India in the shape of Jaydev Unadkat, who came on at first change and made crucial breakthroughs, ending with 4 for 41 in ten overs and effecting a run-out.
Unadkat’s excellent bouncer to Sikandar Raza brought India’s first wicket in the 11th over, and he struck twice in the 21st, just as Vusi Sibanda was looking threatening. Sibanda whipped a delivery straight to midwicket to depart for 55, and then Unadkat pounced on a loose ball to run out Brendan Taylor for a duck.
Zimbabwe’s challenge faded away from there, with Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra taking care of the middle order as they trapped Sean Williams and Malcolm Waller lbw respectively.
Reduced to 133 for 6 in the 31st over it became clear that Zimbabwe was not going to threaten the Indian total, and although Elton Chigumbura hit 46 and Prosper Utseya made an unbeaten 52, their effort only served to prolong the match.
Unadkat claimed two wickets in the final over, having not only provided the turning points in the innings, but shown excellent control throughout.
While Virat Kohli’s century in the first match owed much to the timid bowling and a friendly pitch, so Dhawan’s 116 (127 balls) in this game was aided by an embarrassing display in the field by Zimbabwe.
The ramshackle nature of Zimbabwe’s showing was evident in the fact that it conceded 28 extras, including 15 wides and eight no-balls, and required four hours to get through its overs.
Although Zimbabwe made a bright start, with Brian Vitori, the recalled seamer, removing Rohit Sharma with his first delivery, its troubles began when Kyle Jarvis had Dhawan caught, only for the third umpire to confirm that the bowler had overstepped.
Jarvis’s over ended up going for 15, but in his next one, he struck in controversial circumstances when Kohli was adjudged to have been caught by Waller at mid-on.
Kohli stood his ground, believing that the ball had bounced in front of the fielder, and even asked the umpires to question the third umpire’s confirmation that he was out. The third umpire checked again, before Kohli was eventually sent on his way. Chris Broad, the match referee, would have been watching on with interest.
However, Zimbabwe continued to be the master of its own downfall, as Taylor dropped a regulation catch from Dhawan behind the stumps when the left-hand batsman was on just 14, and Vitori put down a difficult return chance from Ambati Rayudu.
Vitori’s drop had little impact as Rayudu gifted an easy chance soon after, and Zimbabwe was well and truly in the game when Suresh Raina continued his poor run of form as he was caught down the leg side for 4.
That put pressure on Dinesh Karthik as he came to the crease at 65 for 4, but he responded in style, putting on a 159-run partnership with Dhawan that swung the match firmly in India’s favour.
Karthik went on to score 69 before he was run out in a mix-up with Dhawan, who departed in the next over when he played an Utseya delivery on.
Despite that double blow, India finished strongly as R Vinay Kumar and Mohammad Shami took 23 off the final over of the innings, taking India to a total that was well beyond the Zimbabweans.