Having beaten Zimbabwe easily in the one-dayers after struggling briefly, India went into the T20 series as favourites. And, in an expected manner, they continued their domination over the hosts in the opening T20 match as well. Unlike in 50-over version, when they looked at ill ease at times, at Harare on Friday, the most important aspect of their performance was that they were near flawless. Both with the bat first, and then with the ball, they were the dominant side. Even in the field, they were brilliant, outdoing the opponents.
Looking back at the game, it must be said that India’s top order batting won them the match. All of the top three got 30s, which is a significant score in this format. Of them Murali Vijay stood out. This is a format which he really enjoys and, in which he has played some spectacular knocks for the now banned (for two years) Chennai Super Kings. Against Zimbabwe, his prowess again came to the fore as he smacked his runs at a strike rate of 179. Vijay’s knock set up India for the impressive total that they eventually ended up with.
Skipper Ajinkya Rahane gave good support to Vijay, and their partnership got India off to a rollicking start. But, while the duo as an opening pair did well, Rahane’s individual strike rate of just over 100 wasn't impressive. The same was the case with Robin Uthappa, who remained unbeaten on 39. He was under pressure for sure following his failures in the one-dayers, but considering his T20 experience, India expected more from him. He did carry the innings till the end, and it worked against Zimbabwe. But, against stronger teams, it could cause trouble.
Like their overall batting, India’s bowling was also impressive. Zimbabwe are not known to be great players of slow bowling, and this weakness of theirs was evident again, as Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh combined to cripple the Zimbabwe innings. Patel, in particular, was impressive with his three wickets, two of which were bowled, while Harbhajan also got a couple of big wickets. The veteran off-spinner has looked reasonably good, which augurs well for the World T20. As for Zimbabwe, it was the same old story for them, of not converting a good start, and paying the price for it.
-- By A Cricket Analyst