Amidst the backdrop of a national election of questionable repute, Zimbabwe’s cricketers put in a performance so dire that even India would have gained little satisfaction from affecting it.
Inserted by Virat Kohli, the hosts were bowled out for just 144 in 42.4 overs before India eased to victory inside 31 overs, with debutant batsman Cheteshwar Pujara the only wicket to fall.
Although India deserved credit for a clinical performance with the ball in helpful conditions, Zimbabwe continued to aid and abet the enemy in the process of slumping to 47 for 5.
Mohit Sharma made an impressive start to international cricket, as he was handed the new ball and duly took 1 for 13 in his opening spell of six overs.
Mohit, the 24-year-old seamer from Haryana, struck again in the batting Power Play to end an 80-run partnership between Elton Chigumbura and Malcolm Waller, which was the only bright spot for Zimbabwe.
Although Zimbabwe was unfortunate to lose an important toss for the third time in the series, yet again its batsmen were complicit in their own downfall. After Mohit had Sikandar Raza caught behind in the seventh over, Hamilton Masakadza’s laziness between the wickets saw him run out and led to a full-blown collapse.
Brendan Taylor, the captain, was trapped lbw by Ravindra Jadeja for a duck, Sean Williams was bowled by Jaydev Unadkat without scoring, and Vusi Sibanda undid the hard work he had put in at the start when he played Jadeja on for 24.
Waller arrived with his place in the side under serious threat after scoring just four runs in the first three matches, and formed a patient stand with Chigumbura to slowly dig Zimbabwe out of a massive hole.
The pair added just 64 runs in almost 20 overs as they repaired the innings, then showed more intent when the batting Power Play arrived as Mohammed Shami’s over cost 11.
However, Mohit put an end to the partnership, when he had Waller caught behind for 35 and, with the lower order failing to contribute, Chigumbura was left stranded on 50 not out.
Amit Mishra claimed the last three wickets in the Zimbabwean innings to finish with figures of 3 for 25, while Jadeja took 2 for 28 in nine overs.
Faced with a meagre target, India was content to stroke the ball around in casual fashion and lend opportunities to batsmen who had been out of form.
When Pujara was bowled by Tendai Chatara for 13 with the Indian total on just 23, Suresh Raina was promoted up the order and registered his first half-century in 12 one-day innings.
Rohit Sharma also made his first score of note in this series, hitting 64 not out from 90 balls, as the pair knocked off the remaining 122 runs required without breaking a sweat.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers didn’t do a great deal wrong and, with such a low total to defend on a pitch that became better as the day wore on, blame could not be placed at their feet.
Raina hit the winning run from the fifth ball of the 31st over to finish unbeaten on 65 from 71 deliveries and give India a 4-0 lead in the series.
The final match will be played at the same venue on Saturday.