Slow start restricts Zim total

HARARE - After what felt like an eternity of waiting and uncertainty as to whether India would indeed tour Zimbabwe, the eagerly anticipated series finally got underway, and India went about their business in a most proficient and highly professional manner, taking a 1-0 lead in the five match series on Wednesday.

The Harare Sports Club pitch was an interesting pitch, with a slightly unusual but enjoyable behaviour of carry and bounce for the seamers.

The ball was carrying through nicely to the keeper, even when Zimbabwe's less threatening seamers had their turn.

There was the usual Harare sports Club swing and seam for the Indian bowlers, which made scoring up front a tad difficult.

Even so, it was a little disappointing to note that Vusi Sibanda faced a massive 72 balls to compile his 34 runs before failing to pick legspinner Amid Mishra's wrong one, and was adjudged to be out lbw.

There was a definite tentativeness about Zimbabwe's batting in this first encounter, probably due to the very little game time they have had, as well as the lack of confidence after the disappointing performances against Australia A in the three day warm up match last week.

Although Sikanda Raza Butt made 82, it was an innings of catch up cricket, which can more often than not get you out playing dreadful shots, as was the case with Butt.

There was a hundred for the taking, but because he had faced 112 balls in his innings, he rightly felt the time had come to up the tempo. But by so doing, he played a very ordinary shot, swiping across the line.

It was also somewhat surprising to see Hamilton Masakadza go in ahead of Brendan Taylor after the dismissal of Sean Williams, who will still probably be kicking himself black and blue, after falling to the very part time off spin of Suresh Raina.

The reason I feel Taylor should have gone in ahead of Masakadza is because the spinners were operating.

Although it is good to see Masakadza batting at numbers three and four, and not at the top of the order, Masakadza does struggle against spin bowling at the best of time, let alone when he first comes to the crease.

Taylor on the other hand is a bit better in rotating the strike.

On a positive note, Elton Chigumbura showed signs of the Chigumbura of a few years ago as he looked to dominate as well as rotate the strike from ball one.

His innings of 43* was filled with a combination of well-timed strokes, and typical Chigumbura power, both down the ground, and square of the wicket.

But it was fair to say that everybody pretty much new that 228 was never going to test the mighty Indians on a good and firm batting pitch.

Tendai Chatara continued to impress with the new ball, extracting reasonable pace and good bounce, as well as excellent movement to both the opening batsmen, and would have had every right to have felt aggrieved for not getting a wicket, as he conceded just 17 runs in his first spell of six overs.

Although the fielders were quick in getting to the balls, they gave away far too many singles, as they were to slow in getting the ball back to either the keeper or bowler.

Zimbabwe's batsmen can most definitely take a leaf out of stand-in captain Virat Kohli's book.

Kohli is only 24 years of age, and yet, he has already notched up 15 ODI hundreds in his career.

His conversion rate is staggering as he also has 23 fifties.

A lot of people would feel that it is unfair to compare Kohli to anyone of Zimbabwe's batsmen, but surely these are people batsmen would want to emulate.

Kohli's innings was an absolute master peace, his ability to punish the bad ball without fail, left the small crowd and members of the press box gasping with admiration.

And so, Zimbabwe have only one day to recover before they once again take to the field and do battle against the world one day champions.

One certainly hopes that they would have learnt something from this first encounter.

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