After clinching its first one-Day International series win under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni since October 2014, India can put the seal on a series clean sweep when facing Zimbabwe in this third and final match in Harare on Wednesday. India, which has traveled to Zimbabwe with a second-string lineup, claimed an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series with a second-straight convincing victory on Sunday.
It was the same formula as the opening game last week. Dhoni won the toss and putting Zimbabwe into bat, before India rolled through the opponent’s batting order and easily knocking off the required runs. This time around Zimbabwe suffered a monumental collapse, going from 106-3 to 126 all out. And it took less than 27 overs at the crease for India to get the victory sealed. After the emerging Kannur Lokesh Rahul starred with a century in the first match, the considerably more experienced Ambati Rayudu got to take center stage in the second.
The 30-year-old had supported Rahul with an unbeaten 62 in the opening match and he remains yet to be dismissed for the series after adding 41 more on Sunday. In a series designed as an opportunity for young players to make their case for future inclusion, Rayadu, who hasn’t appeared for his country since another weakened lineup toured Zimbabwe last July, has shown that he shouldn’t be discounted.
“My one-day career, I am really happy with the way it has gone,” he said in a press conference after his runs guided India to an eight-wicket victory with a massive 139 ball still remaining. “Given the guys that we have in the team, somebody has to do the role that I am doing. I think it is important for me to stay focused and take my opportunities when they come.
“For me generally it's just about getting my batting in shape. Mostly, visualization is the key I feel, because even when you're out for a long period of time, traveling with the team, I try to keep myself motivated and focused. I prepare myself before the game as though I am going to play it.”
If anything, in its effort to assess players for tougher contests ahead, India may be disappointed at how poor the challenge from Zimbabwe has been in the first two matches. The third and final match, ahead of a three-match Twenty20 series between the two countries, now offers a chance to salvage some much-needed pride.
It is now four ODI series defeats in a row for Zimbabwe, having also lost to Bangladesh and Afghanistan, twice, in recent months. The crowd in Harare displayed its frustration on Sunday as its team was put to the sword once again. After early exits at both the recent World Twenty20 and last year’s 50-over World Cup, it is not a happy time in Zimbabwean cricket.
Vusi Sibanda was one of the few to come away from the second ODI with any credit, after hitting a half-century, although even he was disappointed in himself for not staying in to guide his team to the finish line. Yet, Sibanda believes some of the displeasure voiced by the home supporters went too far.
“I heard some of the words that came out, they were actually not nice but we represent our country and obviously they are disappointed as much as we are,” he said, according to the Zimbabwe Herald. “They expect a lot from us, they are following us. If we do not perform exceptionally well they get disappointed, but for them to step over the line and get personal is not good. If we do not do well, yeas, that would be disappointing, but we also want them to stand by us when things don’t go well.”
Match Time: 3 a.m. EDT
TV Channel: Willow TV
Live Stream: Willow.tv