India's second-string team survived a scare against the resurgent Zimbabweans in the 1st One-Day International (ODI) at the Harare Sports Club on 10 July. Ajinkya Rahane-led India, who secured a four-run win, managed to seal the game by the skin of their teeth to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.
Ambati Rayudu struck a career-best unbeaten 124 runs to rescue India after a top-order collapse and guide the visitors to a competitive total of 255 runs at the loss of six wickets in 50 overs.
The right-hander played a mature innings, alongside all-rounder Stuart Binny, who played the second fiddle with his knock of 77 runs. Apart from the duo, skipper Ajinkya Rahane (34) was the only other Indian batsmen to register a double digit score.
Zimbabwe's Chamu Chibhabha (2/25) and Donald Tripano (2/48) were the pick of the bowlers for the hosts while skipper Elton Chigumbura almost won the game for his side with a blistering knock of 104 runs.
Amongst the fringe players in India's touring side, Ambati Rayudu and Stuart Binny served as a silver lining for the 2011 World Cup winners. Coming in to bat at 9/1, Rayudu batted with poise and displayed tremendous maturity as the wickets kept tumbling at the other end.
With India losing five wickets for a mere 87 runs, Rayudu and Stuart Binny added 160 runs for the sixth wicket to save the blushes for the hosts. Rayudu, whose highest score in ODIs was 121, smashed 124 runs - his second international hundred. His partner in crime, Binny also recorded his best ODI score after scoring 79-ball 77. If it wasn't for the duo, India would have surely found themselves in trouble against the spirited minnows.
Indian players who flopped
Indian opener Murali Vijay's dream of making a comeback in the ODIs after a gap of two years finally came true. But the right-hander failed miserably against the opponents who are ranked 11th in the ODIs. Vijay took nine balls to score just one run before edging a good length delivery to Vusi Sibanda at second slip off left-arm pacer Brian Vittori in the fourth over.
Back into the senior side after a long hiatus, middle-order batsmen Manoj Tiwary (2) and Robin Uthappa (0) failed to make a mark in the game. Debutant Kedar Jadhav (5) also had a forgettable outing, as the three quick wickets saw India reeling at 87/5 at the halfway-stage.
So close, but yet so far for Zimbabwe
Ranked 11th in the ODIs, no one would have expected the Zimbabweans to come so close to winning despite India fielding its second-string team for the tour. But the minnows produced a spirited performance in a match that could have gone either ways. The bowlers did their job early on for Zimbabwe as Chamu Chibhabha (2/25) and Donald Tripano (2/48) wreaked havoc on the opposition batsmen. In the batting department, skipper Elton Chigumbura (104*) failed to find support from his teammates and was left stranded at the other end to watch his team fall short by a mere four runs. Hamilton Masakadza (34) and Sikandar Raza (37) added to the team's run-chase but couldn't get Zimbabwe over the line.