Harare, July 10: Riding on Ambati Rayudu's unbeaten 124, India eked out a four-run victory despite Zimbabwe skipper Elton Chigumbura's inspiring unbeaten knock of 104 runs in their first of the three-match One-Day Intertiol (ODI) series at the Harare Sports Club here on Friday.
Rayudu registered his second century and shared a 160-run partnership with Stuart Binny (77) to take India to 255 for six in 50 overs against Zimbabwe, who were driven by Chigumbura's second ton. Chigumbura almost took his side to a momentous upset, only to falter in the fil over as Zimbabwe scored 251 for seven in 50 overs.
Chigumbura won the toss and asked India to bat and his bowlers proved him right as India reeled at 87/5 in the 25th over. This was when Binny, who scored his maiden half-century, joined hands with Rayudu and the duo absorbed the pressure and scored at a very good pace to give India a competitive total.
Rayudu, who made his ODI debut here on July 24, 2013 against the same opposition, played a flawless innings more with the straight bat, while Binny used his long handle to good effect as India recovered well after the early wobble.
India got off to a poor start as opening batsman Murali Vijay offered a catch to Sibanda off left-arm pacer Brian Vetori bowling in the fourth over. The Test regular scored one run in 14 deliveries as Zimbabwe bowlers Tishe Panyangara and Vetori operated with tight line and lengths.
After Vijay's fall, Rayudu joined his captain Ajinkya Rahane in the middle and they forged a 59-run partnership for the second wicket to ease the visitors' pressure. Rahane looked solid for a 34 before the Mumbai right-hander offered a catch to Masakadza off Dold Tiripano in the 18th over. After the skipper's wicket, the Indian innings wobbled as Manoj Tiwary (2), Robin Uthappa (0) and Kedar Jadhav (5) fell cheaply.
While right-arm medium pacer Chamu Chibhabha accounted for Tiwary and Jadhav, Kartaka batsman Uthappa ran himself out.
With the tourists struggling at 87/5, all-rounder Binny and Rayudu combined well and shouldered the responsibility of pulling the team out of trouble. While Binny was the aggressor, Rayudu's was a calculated effort.
Baroda batsman Rayudu took 72 deliveries to get his fifty while his next 50 runs came in 45 balls as India added 90 runs in the fil 10 overs.
For Zimbabwe, Chibhabha was the best bowler as he picked up two wickets for 25 runs in 10 overs. Tiripano also bagged two wickets for 48 runs and Vetori got one wicket.
In reply to India's total, Zimbabwe also had their problem similar to India's. They were reduced to 94/4 as opener Vusi Sibanda (20) and Hamilton Masakadza (34) failed to transform their starts to noticeable ones.
Sikander Raza also got a good start but his innings was halted at 37, leaving Chigumbura to do the bulk of scoring. At 16/6 in the 38th over, Graeme Cremer (27) joined hans with his captain and the duo stitched a 86-run stand for the seventh wicket to give some hopes. IANS