HARARE — Captain Virat Kohli led from the front with a superb century as India cruised to a six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in the first One-Day International in Harare today.
Chasing a victory target of 229, Kohli scored 115 and shared in a 153-run third-wicket partnership with debutant Ambati Rayudu (63 not out) as the World Cup and ICC Champions Trophy winners claimed victory with more than five overs to spare.
Kohli, who fell with just 13 runs required looking to hit Prosper Utseya over the top, will have been especially pleased with his 15th ODI century having earlier given Zimbabwe’s top scorer Sikandar Raza a life which allowed the opener to add an extra 54 runs to his total.
Raza was on 28 when Kohli dropped him at slip off the bowling of Ravindra Jadeja and the 27-year-old made the most of the let-off as he scored 82 for his maiden international half-century, comfortably beating his previous-best ODI score of 37.
Raza was eventually snared by leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who was the pick of the India attack with figures of 3-43.
At one stage it looked as though Zimbabwe were on course for a bigger total after reaching 105 for 1 from 31 overs on the back of a 72-run opening partnership between Vusi Sibanda (34) and Raza.
However, India made steady inroads into the Zimbabwe batting to limit their momentum and in the end the hosts were grateful to Elton Chigumbura for getting them up to 228 fo 7, the experienced all-rounder striking six fours and a six in his rapid 43 not out.
That target proved no problem for India though with Kohli and Rayudu guiding them most of the way home following the departures of openers Shikhar Dhawan (17) and Rohit Sharma (20).
Kohli struck 13 fours and a six in his 108-ball innings while Rayudu provided solid back-up on his debut, the 27-year-old finishing the match off with his fourth boundary of the innings having faced 84 balls.
The second of the five-match series takes place in Harare on Friday. (Sky)