India stroll to 6-wicket win over Zimbabwe

Harare, July 24 (IANS) Skipper Virat Kohli struck a sublime century and debutant Ambati Rayudu hit an unbeaten fifty to guide India to a convincing six-wicket win over Zimbabwe in the first of the five-match ODI series at the Harare Sports Club here Wednesday.

India, set a target of 229, made 230 for four with 31 balls to spare after Virat Kohli struck 115, his 15th ODI century, and Rayudu remained unbeaten on 63. Kohli was adjudged the Man of the Match.

It was a clinical performance by the second string India side - with some of the stars being rested for the series - after Kohli opted to field.

Zimbabwe's innings was held together by the Sialkot-born Sikandar Raza, who made a watchful 82 to guide the home team to 228 for seven in 50 overs. Elton Chingumbura came up with a quick-fire unbeaten 43 off 34 balls.

Comeback man leggie Amit Mishra was the most successful Indian bowler, bagging three for 43.

It wasn't a stiff target to chase, but India lost in-form openers Shikhar Dhawan (17) and Rohit Sharma (20) inside 13 overs with 57 runs on the board.

Dhawan started off in his typical flamboyant style but fell while attempting a hook off Kyle Jarvis. Rohit also departed soon, edging a wide delivery through to the keeper off Chingumbura.

Khohli then took the center stage and stitched a 159-run stand for the third wicket that put India on the threshold of a win.

The Zimbabwe bowlers hardly posed any threat, though the ball was initially swinging a bit.

Kohli was in good touch right from the start and took 57 balls for his 50. His 108 came up in 113 balls and was studded with 13 boundaries and a six. Kohli fell while trying to hit out Propser Utseya, only to find Vusi Sibanda at long-on. Suresh Raina lasted two balls and failed to open his account before becoming Utseya's second victim in the same over.

Rayudu, who made his international debut after 10 years of his first A tour, impressed with his stroke play. He struck four fours in his 84-ball innings and took the team home safely with Dinesh Karthik, who was not out on eight.

Earlier, a patient innings from Raza and late fireworks form Chigumbura guided Zimbabwe to a respectable total of 228 for seven.

On a green pitch, Kohli won the toss and elected to field with Rayudu and pacer Jaidev Undadkat making their debuts.

Zimbabwe openers Sibanda (34) and Raza started cautiously and put on 72 for the first wicket before Mishra removed Sibanda in the 22nd.

Sean Williams (15) and Hamilton Masakadza (11) departed in quick successions as Zimbabwe slumped to 119 for three.

Raza, however, held on to one end and reached his maiden ODI half century in 88 balls. He shared a 43-run partnership with captain Brendan Taylor (12) for the fourth-wicket.

Raza was removed by Mishra in the 44th over that left Zimbabwe in deep trouble at 176 for six. But Chigumbura took over the charge and made an unbeaten 34 ball 43 to take his team past 200-run mark.

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