Skipper Virat Kohli's century powers India to six-wicket win over Zimbabwe
Virat Kohli cracked a scintillating century as India thrashed minnows Zimbabwe by six wickets in the first cricket one-dayer to take a 1-0 lead in the five match series in Harare on Wednesday.
Chasing a modest victory target of 228, India rode on captain Kohli's 115 as they overhauled the target with 31 balls to spare in what turned out to be a lop-sided contest at the Harare Sports Club.
Kohli, who hit a spectacular century against West Indies while leading the side in the recently concluded Tri-Series, again led by example to notch up his 15th ODI hundred as he guided the team home after the early dismissals of the two openers.
Ambati Rayudu's much-awaited international debut also turned out to be an impressive one as he struck a responsible unbeaten 63 off 83 balls and more importantly added 159 runs for the third wicket with his skipper.
This was after openers Shikhar Dhawan (17) and Rohit Sharma (20) were dismissed early.
On a seaming track, Kohli showed his class and temperament as he brought about his 100 off only 102 balls with 11 hits to the fence.
When he got a little bit of width outside the off-stump, he was quick to play the cover-drive while he rocked back to square cut offie spinner Prosper Utseya through the point region.
The maturity was also evident after he completed his century scampering home for a single with a push towards cover region. There was no exalted celebration after reaching the milestone just a quite acknowledgement of the applause. He celebrated his landmark with a big six but was soon holed out in the deep off Utseya's bowling but India by then were within sniffing distance of the target. His 115 came off 108 balls with 13 fours and a six.
Rayudu proved to be the ideal foil as he didn't play any risky shots and was content in rotating the singles and giving bulk of the strike to his skipper.
Earlier, Zimbabwe scored 227 for seven riding on Pakistan-born opener Sikandar Raza's gutsy 82 and a 43-run cameo from Elton Chigumbura. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra made a successful return to limited overs cricket with figures of three for 43. The next match will be played at the same venue on July 26.
Zimbabwe opener Sikandar Raza hit his maiden half-century in international cricket, but his contribution was outshone by Indian legspinner Amit Mishra's deceptive googly as Zimbabwe posted 228 for seven in the first one-day international on Wednesday.
Raza struck a combative 82 after Zimbabwe were asked to bat in testing conditions, but eventually succumbed to Mishra's googly, which accounted for two other Zimbabwean batsmen.
Mishra finished with figures of 3 for 43 in 10 overs, but his final analysis would have been even better were it not for Elton Chigumbura's late flurry.
Chigumbura helped Zimbabwe take 13 off Mishra's final over, and ended unbeaten on 43 having regularly found the boundary in his 34-ball innings.
India's seamers found lateral movement up front and controlled it well, forcing Zimbabwe to make a circumspect start before attempting to improve their scoring rate in the middle overs.
However their inability to pick Mishra's googly ensured regular wickets, with Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza both falling for the ploy.
Raza provided some impetus when he helped the hosts take 39 runs from the batting powerplay, but his demise in the 44th over left Chigumbura to do all the late hitting.
Chigumbura hit six fours and a six to give Zimbabwe a glimmer of hope, but an improving pitch will give them no more than an outside chance of causing an upset against the top-ranked side in the world
Zimbabwe: 228 for 7 in 50 overs (Sikandar Raza 82, Elton Chigumbara 43 not out, Amit Mishra 3/43).
India: 230 for four in 44.5 overs (Virat Kohli 115, Ambati Rayudu 63 not out; Prosper Utseya 2/34)