BULAWAYO: A merciless India maintained their stranglehold over minnows Zimbabwe as they cruised to a resounding nine-wicket win in the fourth one-dayer to extend their lead to 4-0 in the five-match series on Thursday.
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Opting to field after winning the toss, India bowled out Zimbabwe for a paltry 144, and then chased down the target with 115 balls remaining at Queens Sports Club.
For India, leg-spinner Amit Mishra scalped three wickets for 25 runs, while debutant Mohit Sharma (2/26) and Ravindra Jadeja (2/28) picked up two apiece. Mohammed Shami and Jaydev Unadkat also accounted for one wicket each.
Rohit Sharma (64 not out) and Suresh Raina (65 not out) were the two main contributors with the bat as the visitors extended Zimbabwe’s winless run.
Raina struck six fours during his 71-ball knock while Rohit found the fence five times and cleared it once during his 90-ball innings.
Chasing a small total, India suffered an early blow as they lost debutant Cheteshwar Pujara with the scoreboard reading 23 for one in the 10th over.
The 25-year-old Saurashtra player was bowled by Tendai Chatara while trying to go for a drive to an incoming delivery only to see his leg-stump getting uprooted. Glimpses of the batsman’s talent was evident as he creamed Michael Chinouya for two boundaries through the off-side before being dismissed.
Pujara’s wicket was the lone success Zimbabwe tasted as Raina along with Rohit shared a second-wicket partnership of 122 runs to take India home.
Playing sensible cricket, the duo of Raina and Rohit brought up the fifty partnership in 61 balls.
While Raina was more flashier of the two, Rohit looked content playing second fiddle to the left-handed batsman who has not been in the best of form in recent times.
Adopting a careful approach, Rohit however did not miss out on the loose balls. Brian Vitori’s wide half-volley was spanked through cover point and then guided Prosper Utseya through the same region.
At the other end, Raina was playing freely after he got into the groove with a square-driven boundary off Chatara’s bowling.
In the next over, Raina stepped out of the crease to loft Utseya straight over his head. The off-spinner was then played towards the long-of region for another four.
Rohit meanwhile straight drove Utseya before pulling Sean Williams through deep square leg.
Raina hit Chatara for two more fours in three balls before Rohit slashed one through the point and short third man region and lofted Vitori over long-on for a huge six to take India within sniffing distance of another big win.
Earlier, barring an 80-run sixth wicket stand between Elton Chigumbura (50 not out) and Malcolm Waller (35), Zimbabwe had very little to show for in their batting effort as they were bowled out in 42.4 overs.
Such was Zimbabwe’s struggle that only four batsmen managed double digit scores after being invited to bat by Virat Kohli.
With the series already in their pocket after having won the first three games quite comfortably, India made two changes in their playing eleven, handing out debuts to Cheteshwar Pujara and Mohit in place of Shikhar Dhawan and R Vinay Kumar.
Mohit impressed in his maiden ODI as he managed to extract pace and movement from the Queens Sports Club pitch.
The 24-year-old from Haryana soon tasted success and registered his maiden international wicket in just his fourth over when he induced an edge from Sikandar Raza which Dinesh Karthik had no problems in accepting.
Pitched on a good length on off stump, the ball nipped away off the seam just enough to take Raza’s outside edge through to Karthik behind the stumps.
Hamilton Masakadza (10) was the next to depart, caught short off the crease by a direct hit from Jadeja.
Captain Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams and Sibanda departed in consecutive overs to make matters worse for Zimbabwe, who lost half of their side inside the 50-run mark.
While Jadeja accounted for the wickets of Taylor and Sibanda, Jaydev Unadkat removed Williams.
But Chigumbura and Waller came to the home team’s rescue with a 80-run sixth wicket before Zimbabwe witnessed another collapse.
Mohit broke the partnership when Wallace nicked one to Karthik.
Thereafter, Chigumbura was left stranded at the other end as wickets kept on tumbling like nine pins for Zimbabwe, who lost their last five wickets for just 17 runs.