2nd ODI: India v Zimbabwe at Mohali, 10 Mar 2002
Anand Vasu

India innings: 25 overs, End of innings,
Pre-game: Toss & Teams,
Zimbabwe innings: 25 overs,

Chasing large scores is a tricky business. It does not matter how mediocre the opposition bowling is, or how good the wicket is for batting. Scoring at over six runs an over for 50 overs is a very demanding task. Zimbabwe, at the halfway mark in pursuit of 320 for victory, looked a picture of health at 148/3.

The early loss of Dion Ebrahim, caught at slip off a peach of a delivery from the nippy Ajit Agarkar, did little to deter the visitors in their run chase. Travis Friend, promoted to number three, performed his role of pinch-hitter with aplomb. The large-hearted medium-pacer struck the ball with honesty, presenting the full face of the bat.

Just when the Indian medium-pacers and subsequently spinners thought they had a measure of things, Friend started using the long handle to good effect. Connecting with some clean hits that were played predominantly in the ‘V’ and were placed well over the infield, Friend took the attack to the opposition.

Alistair Campbell, for all his less-than-impressive record at the international level, has played knocks of maturity and confidence that stand out. He shaped to do just that today, driving through the covers with felicity. Using the slog-sweep to good effect, Campbell countered the Indian spinners with ease.

Friend’s knock, however, did not last nearly as long as Zimbabwe would have liked. After making 64 (60 balls, 7 fours, 1 six) Friend was stumped off the skilful Harbhajan Singh, with Ajay Ratra doing a tidy job behind the stumps. Friend had been instrumental in adding a record 134 for the second wicket with Campbell.

Soon after Friend was taken care of, Harbhajan Singh sent Campbell packing. Straddling the crease, Campbell was trapped plumb in front when he missed a drifter from the offie. Campbell’s 62 (74 balls, 8 fours) should really have been something far more substantial if Zimbabwe are to go the whole distance.

Andy Flower was at the crease with brother Grant, with Zimbabwe on 148/5 after 25 overs.

Once again, a century evaded Sourav Ganguly. After playing himself in well, the Indian skipper fell for 86 (83 balls, 8 fours, 3 sixes) in the 30th over of the day. By then however, Ganguly had managed to pack enough punch to take India to a commanding position of 188/2 in 29.1 overs. The platform was sufficient for the Indian middle order to first consolidate and then accelerate to reach a mammoth 319/6 in their allotted 50 overs.

After the first one-dayer, where Douglas Marillier pulled off a minor miracle, it would be silly to predict the outcome of this clash so early in the match. It must be said, however, that VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid batted with a sense of urgency and purpose that is the exception rather than the rule with Indian cricket.

While Laxman seemed to continue from where he left off in the first game, it was Dravid’s approach that was most surprising. The Karnataka middle-order batsman, usually slow and dour, played an innings of character – innovating at will. Inside-out through the off-side, pulls that skipped away to the fence, a reverse-sweep that beat short third man, and even an attempted scoop shot a la Marillier were on display.

Laxman, having reached a well made 52 (72 balls, 3 fours) from which India benefited to the tune of 55 runs for the third wicket, got the leading edge off an attempted pull shot. Trying to force the pace, Laxman spooned a catch off Travis Friend to Dion Ebrahim at point.

Dravid, however, was unfazed by the fall of wickets at the other end. Growing in confidence, he remained unbeaten on 66 (59 balls, 6 fours) as India put together a massive 319/6 in 50 overs. Harbhajan Singh (15 not out), cheered on by his home crowd, struck a couple of lusty blows towards the end.

It was yet another disappointment with the bat for Sanjay Bangar. After lasting two balls for a duck in the first encounter, the all-rounder fell for a first ball duck at Mohali.

Marillier and miracles apart, Zimbabwe will struggle hard to make a match of this one.

A good batting track, an attacking batsman regaining prime form, and a youngster doing his best to cement his place in the side - the ideal ingredients for a batting run fest. The Punjab Cricket Association Stadium at Mohali served up just this as India raced to 160/1 at the halfway mark, well poised to post a large total.

The Zimbabwe bowling looked effective early on, with Heath Streak in particular bowling a tight line to India’s makeshift opening partnership of Sourav Ganguly and Dinesh Mongia. The former was troubled by the short ball, mis-hitting more than one pull shot but getting away with it.

Mongia for his part was more than content to play a sedate knock. After getting a start and failing to capitalise in the first encounter, Mongia got into a good rhythm. Using the width afforded to him to good effect, the Punjab southpaw got the scoreboard moving at a steady pace. He was however, less than convincing in his approach, and it came as no surprise that a mis-timed drive went straight down the throat of Travis Friend at mid-off. Despite being unattractive, Mongia’s innings was of immense value. Mongia’s 45 (52 balls, 9 fours) took India to 109 for the opening partnership.

Ganguly changed his gloves more than once, his bat on occasion, but whatever it was, he seemed to get things just right. After struggling to get his feet moving early on, the Indian captain regained his old form – signalled by total domination of the bowlers in limited-overs cricket. Using his feet well, Ganguly came down the track with regularity, unmindful of the fact that Tatenda Taibu was standing up to the stumps to prevent just this.

The assualt had its effect on the Zimbabweans, with Friend losing his way completely in the middle overs. The mediumpacer bowled as many as five wides in a single over – the over lasted 11 balls. Fortunately for Stuart Carlisle, slow bowlers Douglas Marillier and Grant Flower managed to keep their heads even as the pressure mounted.

Clattering the ball into the stands with ease, Ganguly found himself and India in a position of strength that is not normally associated with Indian teams playing without Sachin Tendulkar. At the end of 25 overs, Ganguly was unbeaten on 68 (71 balls, 7 fours, 2 sixes) and had his eyes set on a big ton. VVS Laxman, batting with characteristic elan had 21 to his name with two spanking cover drives that you could pay good money to watch.

India certainly look poised to notch up a big score and put Zimbabwe firmly on the back foot.

After the cracking encounter that Zimbabwe won right at the death at Faridabad, the one-day series moves to the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium at Mohali. Douglas Marillier’s heroics saw Zimbabwe take a 1-0 lead in this 5-match series by the slender margin of one wicket.

India, keen to make a strong comeback in this series have been bothered by a spate of niggling injuries. Zaheer Khan who bowled so well is troubled by a niggle, while skipper Sourav Ganguly has some trouble with his knee. Despite this India play an unchanged side.

Zimbabwe too have left their team composition just the same – after all, it would not be wise to change a winning combination.

On winning the toss, Ganguly elected to bat, looking to put a good total on the board and get the Zimbabweans under pressure. The wicket, as always at Mohali, looks good and hard.

Teams: India: D Mongia, SC Ganguly, VVS Laxman, R Dravid, M Kaif, SB Bangar, +A Ratra, AB Agarkar, A Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Z Khan.

Zimbabwe:ADR Campbell, CB Wishart, TJ Friend, A Flower, DD Ebrahim, *SV Carlisle, GW Flower, HH Streak, DA Marillier, +T Taibu, GB Brent.

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Date-stamped : 10 Mar2002 - 23:36