There was no twirl of the moustache from Shikhar Dhawan. Instead, he took off his helmet, and with a customary grin threw his head back and raised the arms in the air. Shikhar knew it was not an occasion to give the moustache a twirl. Not if you’d led a charmed life. Thrice, the left-hander got a reprieve on Friday but made the most of them at the Harare Sports Club.
His 116 (127b, 11x4, 2x6) in India’s 58-run win is the most unconvincing hundred of his 17-match ODI career, and it came against a Zimbabwe side, which bowled and fielded as badly as their No 10 ranking suggests.
It was Shikhar’s third ODI ton, which helped India go 2-0 up in the five-match series.
On the eve of the match, Zimbabwe skipper Brendan Taylor had suggested how it was important to bowl first on a cool winter day. His wish was granted, and it looked like his calculations had proved right till the hosts lost their way.
India were 65 for four in the 17th over, and could have been five down had Kyle Jarvis not bowled a no-ball which Shikhar (3) nicked to wicketkeeper Taylor.
He was to get two more lives, on 14 and 70. Taylor could not hold on to the edge off Jarvis and then Malcolm Waller misjudged a straightforward catch at deep square leg.
“The wicket wasn’t easy to bat on. It was swinging and seaming,” said Shikhar. “They bowled well in the first 25 overs and I was fortunate,” added the 27-year-old.
Things got worse for Zimbabwe. The bowlers, who had exploited the conditions perfectly in the morning, conceded a whopping 28 extras, including 15 wides and eight no-balls.
Shikhar was destined to get his hundred. In the company of Dinesh Karthik 69 (74b, 6x6), he added 159 for the fifth wicket, which helped India finish at a strong 294 for eight.
Shikhar took maximum advantage of the errant Zimbabwe bowlers, as he clipped and pulled repeatedly.
So did Karthik, who with his timely half century – his second since his comeback – put pressure on Suresh Raina, who continued with his horror run as he made just four.
While chasing, Zimbabwe made a promising start as they cruised to 109 for one in 20 overs before Jaydev Unadkat (4/41) applied the brake.
The left-arm seamer, playing his second ODI, gave India the breakthrough by sending back Sikandar Raza in his first spell. But it was in his second spell that Unadkat won the game for India. He dismissed the well set Vusi Sibanda (55) and then ran out Taylor with a smart piece of fielding. Once Hamilton Masakadza was gone, there was hardly any hope for Zimbabwe. Elton Chigumbura and Prosper Utseya did put on a seventh-wicket stand of 88 but that only brought cheers from the small crowd.