India, as expected, wrapped-up their three match ODI series against Zimbabwe with another win to complete a series whitewash.
However, whilst the first two matches in the series had been one-sided – embarrassingly so in the case of the first game – this was much more of a contest and the outcome was still in doubt going into the penultimate over.
It made for an entertaining spectacle and offered some encouragement to the home support that their side can compete with the major nations on their day.
For the third time in the series, India won the toss and, this time, conscious that there were players in their side who needed the runs chose to bat first. KL Rahul and Shikhar Dhawan gave them a good start, but it was Shubman Gill who was the star of the show for them by making his first ODI century.
He was well-supported by Ishan Kishan who made exactly 50 before he was run out. They helped India to a final score of 289/8 from their 50 overs, with five of those wickets to fall claimed by Bard Evans playing just his third match at this level.
For once, the Zimbabwe top order did not collapse. Led by Sean Williams who made 45, they laid the platform for Sikandar Raza to come close to pulling off an unlikely victory. His partnership with Evans for the eighth wicket was worth 106, and until Raza was finally dismissed for 115, his side were still in with a chance.
In the end, the tourists won by 13 runs, but it was by no means as comfortable an experience as the first two matches had been.
Gill comes of age
This was a coming of age performance from Gill, who had first burst on to the scene as a teenager before injury and loss of form saw him fall out of favour. Recalled for the West Indies tour, he had shown hints of his talent then and also in the first game in Harare when he had made an unbeaten 82.
However, in scoring 130 this time, not only did he make his highest score to date for his country, but he pencilled his name into the squad for the World Cup next year even when some of the big names that missed this tour are available.
From the viewpoint of the Indian selectors, he is the major plus of this tour.
Welcome runs for Rahul and Kishan
One of the reasons why KL Rahul was parachuted into the touring party at the last minute was to help him find some form ahead of the Asia Cup and T20I World Cup.
Having not batted in the first match and failed in the second, he would have been desperate to spend some time in the middle, and, although he was dismissed for 30, he batted fluently whilst he was at the crease.
Another man glad to have got his chance was Ishan Kishan, who was not only handed the wicketkeeper’s gloves – and claimed a stumping – but also notched up a fifty, suggesting he can replicate his domestic form in an Indian jersey.
Raza and Evans star for the home team
There had been precious little for the Zimbabwe fans to get excited about in the first two matches, but this was different, with Raza and Evans at least emerging with a great deal of credit afterwards.
Evans only made his Zimbabwe debut earlier this month against Bangladesh, but if he can produce more performances like this with bat and ball, he can look forward to earning many more caps.
Raza is at the opposite end of the spectrum – this was his 110th ODI – but proved what a destructive player he can be on his day and almost carried his team to an improbable win.
Tough day at the office for Indian seamers
Deepak Chahal had earned praise after the first ODI for the way he had bowled with economy and discipline on his return to the international set-up after nearly six months out with back problems. This was an altogether different experience and he ended up conceding 75 runs for his two wickets.
Avesh Khan was another one to come in for some punishment, although he did help wrap up the tail.
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