Riding on an unbeaten century on debut by opener Lokesh Rahul (100), India hammered Zimbabwe by nine wickets to win the first of the three-match One-Day International (ODI) series . Chasing a paltry 169, Rahul and middle-order bat Ambati Rayudu (62 not out) put on a brilliant unbeaten 162 for the second wicket as India overhauled the target with 45 balls to spare at the Harare Sports Club.
Rahul, who got to his century with a blistering six off medium pacer Hamilton Masakadza, has become the first Indian and overall 11th to achieve the feat on debut.
Playing in his 31st match, Rayudu joined his skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni to become the joint fifth fastest to score 1000 ODI runs, in his 29th innings.
Earlier, India got off to a poor start losing debutant Karun Nair (7) but Rahul and Rayudu ensured there was no looking back as the duo patiently took India all the way.
Rahul’s 115-ball knock comprised of seven fours and a six while Rayudu took 120 balls with five hits to the fence.
For the hosts, none of the bowlers looked threatening with medium pacer Tendai Chatara taking the lone wicket of Nair.
Earlier, medium-pacer Jasprit Bumrah (4/28) helped India to restrict Zimbabwe to a meagre 168 after Dhoni won the toss and elected to field.
Continuing his brilliant run with the ball from the Indian Premier League (IPL), Bumrah led the young Indian bowling attack and was well assisted by the duo of Dhawal Kulkarni and Barinder Sran with figures of 2/42 each. The spin combo of Axar Patel (1/26) and Yuzvendra Chahal (1/27) were also amongst the wickets.
Former skipper Elton Chigumbura (41) was the top scorer for the hosts while Sikander Raza (23) and Craig Ervine (21) got decent starts in what turned out to be an awful day for the other batsmen.
None of the home batsmen looked intimidating as the bowlers stuck to a perfect line without allowing many freebies.
Under pressure from the visitor’s disciplined bowling and fielding, Zimbabwe managed to get to the 50-run mark only in the 16th over and took another 13 overs to get to the three figure mark with nine boundaries in total.
With the win, India take a 1-0 lead and will face the hosts in the second game on Monday. Post the ODIs, both the teams will face off in a three-match T20 series.