Harare: India rode on a solid all-round performance to comfortably crush Zimbabwe by 62 runs in the second One Day International, thereby taking an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match cricket series, here on Sunday.
Batting first, India scored a decent 271 for eight in 50 overs largely due to a 112-run opening stand between Murali Vijay (72) and skipper Ajinkya Rahane (63), who hit patient half-centuries to set up a fighting target.
In reply, Zimbabwe managed to score only 209 in 49 overs as the bowlers maintained their stranglehold on the opposition throughout the entire duration of the hosts' innings.
Losing three wickets in the first 11 overs including skipper and last match's centurion Elton Chigumbura (9) turned the match decisively in India's favour.
Chamu Chibhabha (72, 100 balls) top-scored but that was never going to enough for the home team to cross the finishing line in this match.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the pick of the bowlers with figures of 4 for 33 in 10 overs and along with Dhawal Kulkarni (1/39 in 9 overs) provided initial breakthroughs while spinners Harbhajan Singh (1/29 in 10 overs) and Axar Patel (1/40 in 10 overs) kept a tight leash on batsmen during the middle overs.
Unlike the first match, Indian team were far better in both departments as they upped their game by a few notches. While the new fielding rule topped by cautious approach from the batsmen meant that India did not pile up a mammoth total but one that was good enough to have Zimbabwe being pushed back to the wall.
During Indian batting, both Vijay and Rahane took a safety first approach against the white duke ball that was doing bit in the air and off the pitch in cool conditions.
Playing for their places when the first team players come back, it was understandable that both Rahane and Vijay had a strike-rate of less than 80. But they did create a platform for a decent enough score.
When Zimbabwe batted, it was Dhawal Kulkarni, who struck the first blow removing Vusimuzi Sibanda (2), who was caught at point by Vijay. The experienced Hamilton Masakadza (5) gave a regulation catch to Robin Uthappa behind the stumps of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
A lot was expected of Chugumbura but the Zimbabwean captain was dismissed to a smart piece of slip catching from skipper Rahane as the hosts were down in the dumps at 43 for three and eventually could not recover from early slump.
It was a perfect platform for Harbhajan and Axar to press the advantage home as Zimbabwe could hardly get away even the the senior off-spinner was unlucky as two simple catches were dropped despite displaying good variations at times.
Earlier, sent into bat by host captain Elton Chigumbura, the Indians relied on Vijay's 95-ball-72 and Rahane's 63 off 83 balls to lay a foundation with an opening stand 112 in 26 overs. In-form Ambati Rayudu contributed 41 off 50 balls, hitting three boundaries, while Rahane found the fence seven time. Vijay struck a four and two sixes.
Manoj Tiwary (22) and Robin Uthappa (13) however missed yet another opportunity to impress the selectors and team management for a long term slot in the squad. Leading 1-0 in the three-match series, India started well with the Rahane-Vijay combo sharing century opening stand.
There were partnerships worth 47 and 44 runs for the second and third wickets, with Rayudu involved in both, but the Indians could not acclerate the scoring. Tiwary (22) failed to capitalise after getting a start, while the others such as Uthappa (13) and Stuart Binny (25) tried to prop up the innings towards the end with some brisk scoring.
Binny hit three boundaries in his 16-ball knock and it evebntually led to India scoring in excess of 270.
The Zimbabweans, to their credit, bowled to a good line and length and kept things tight for the Indian batsmen. 23-year-old medium pace bowler Neville Madziva, who was picked ahead of an injured Tinashe Panyangara for today's match, was the star performer for Zimbabwe, returning impressive figures of four for 47.
India have fielded the same team that won the opening ODI by four runs. Zimbabwe have made one change with Panyangara making way for Madziva.