HARARE: Opener KL Rahul became the first Indian to hit a century on one-day international debut as he secured a comfortable nine-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in the first ODI at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
With just two runs required for victory, Rahul launched Hamilton Masakadza for six to finish unbeaten on 100, as India chased down a target of 169 with more than seven overs to spare.
Such a dramatic finish was in stark contrast to an otherwise lethargic match on a sluggish wicket that followed the expected trajectory, with India’s second-string side proving too good for a full-strength Zimbabwean outfit despite Zimbabwe interim coach Makhaya Ntini’s pre-series comments about sweeping the tourists under the carpet.
While Rahul has already scored two centuries in five Tests, this is his first tour with the limited overs side and he made an immediate mark.
“It’s a great thing to get an ODI hundred, but to get it in my first match is something very special to me,” he said.
“I always knew I had the game and the skill set to be successful in all three formats, it was just about getting the opportunities and getting the confidence in myself to know that I can perform at any level.”
Playing just his second ODI, seamer Jasprit Bumrah recorded figures of 4 for 28 as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 168 after India had won the toss and asked the hosts to bat first.
Opening bowlers Barinder Sran and Dhawal Kulkarni both used the early-morning swing on offer to make inroads at the top of the Zimbabwean innings, and that damage was compounded when Bumrah dismissed opener Chamu Chibhabha and then Vusi Sibanda in his opening spell.
With the hosts reduced to 69 for four in the 20th over, spinners Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal were able to strangle Zimbabwe through the middle overs, picking up a wicket apiece and conceding just 53 runs in their combined 20 overs.
Top scorer Elton Chigumbura attempted to lift Zimbabwe to a respectable score with a late flourish, but was eventually bowled by Bumrah for 41 in the final over of the innings.
“I think even 80 more runs, had we applied ourselves and formed a few partnerships, would at least have forced them to try and play a bit differently and allowed us to create a few more chances,” said Zimbabwe’s batting coach Lance Klusener.
“Let’s give the boys a little slack and hopefully we can grow from here. We want to draw a line in the sand from the way Zimbabwe have played in the past, but we just need to find our balance and work out how we want to play.”
India lost debutant Karun Nair early on, but the rest of their chase was a breeze as Rahul shared an unbroken 162-run stand with Ambati Rayudu, who ended unbeaten on 62.
The second game in the three-match series takes place at the same venue on Monday. – AFP