India stumble to victory over Zimbabwe
After dismissing Zimbabwe for 135, India slumped to 115 for six before reaching their target in 30.3 overs.india Updated: Feb 04, 2004 09:56 IST
India's uncharacteristic batting jitters continued on Tuesday as the top order struggled once again before finally overcoming a modest Zimbabwe total of 135 in the triangular international series one-day cricket match.
In the last preliminary match before the finals begin on Friday, India was given an almighty scare before scrambling to 136 for six off 30.3 overs to give them a four-wicket win and deny Zimbabwe a single victory in the series.
Zimbabwe's cause looked lost after Indian left-arm paceman Irfan Pathan ripped through the batting, which has been suspect all summer, to finish with figures of 4-24 off his 10 overs.
India, which also struggled on the lively Western Australian Cricket Association ground surface when it lost to Australia on Sunday, seemed set for a comfortable victory.
But Zimbabwe's bowlers had other ideas, with paceman Andy Blignaut, captain Heath Streak and Sean Ervine all causing the top order major problems.
Ervine finished with 2-29 off 8.3 overs while Blignaut took 2-41 off 10 overs.
Streak, who has been the shining light for Zimbabwe throughout the summer, finished with 1-36 after seven overs.
India, without captain Sourav Ganguly who was being rested prior to the finals series against Australia, began shakily with opener Sachin Tendulakar first to go for three, caught behind by Tatenda Taibu off the bowling of Streak.
Tendulkar's opening partner Virender Sehwag was next, caught by Stuart Matsikinyeri at deep third man off Blignaut for 23 runs, leaving India at 34 for two.
Once again Zimbabwe's bowlers made an effort where the batting failed and but for several dropped catches, they could well have had India in very deep trouble.
Sehwag, VVS Laxman and Hemang Badani were all dropped on low scores, with the easiest chance put down by Streak.
Fielding at mid-on, he dropped a straightforward catch from Hemang Badani while he was on eight and the score at 89 for four.
But Ervine continued to be a thorn in the side of the Indians and he was rewarded with the valuable wicket of Yuvraj Singh for four.
He then dismissed Laxman for 32 after the talented batsman played the ball on to his stumps, leaving India in the difficult position of 105 for five.
For India, 19-year-old Pathan took full advantage of the wicket to tear through the Zimbabwean batsmen with his best one-day performance.
Played in searing temperatures reaching almost 41 C (106 F), Zimbabwe offered only fleeting resistance with Amit Bhandari claiming 3-31 off just 7.4 overs and Laxman taking four catches at second slip.
Zimbabwe's start was horrific with Vusi Sibanda falling to Pathan after just four balls, edging the ball to Laxman without scoring.
The agony worsened two balls later when fellow opener Tatenda Taibu was out for a first ball duck with Pathan trapping him leg-before to leave the Africans two wickets down with just one run on the board.
Pathan struck yet again in the seventh over, tempting Ebrahim to hang out his bat to a rising delivery which he too edged to Laxman.
Zimbabwe's poor going was highlighted by the fact that it was the 11th over before the first boundary of the day was hit -- a four to Stuart Carlisle through mid-wicket.
Carlisle and Sean Ervine launched a mini-fightback for Zimbabwe, adding 63 runs to the total but it was not enough.
Stuart Matskinyeri offered some unexpected resistance with his top score of the tour of 36 from 48 balls before he was caught behind by stand-in captain Rahul Dravid off the bowling of Bhandari.
India now travels to Melbourne for its first of the best-of-three finals matches against Australia while Zimbabwe will head for home on Wednesday.