x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Kohli fastest to reach 15 centuries as India beat Zimbabwe in first ODI

Led by their captain, the visitors cruise to a six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club.

Virat Kohli took centre stage again with a anchoring hundred, his 15th, to lead India to victory. Jekesai Njikizana / AFP
Virat Kohli took centre stage again with a anchoring hundred, his 15th, to lead India to victory. Jekesai Njikizana / AFP

HARARE // The India captain Virat Kohli became the fastest batsman in the history of the game to score 15 one-day international hundreds as India cruised to a six-wicket victory over Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club.

Kohli's 115 from just 108 deliveries helped India chase down a target of 229 with 31 deliveries remaining to go up 1-0 in the five-match series, and also saw him eclipse Pakistan batsman Saeed Anwar's record.

Anwar required 143 one-day matches to score his first 15 centuries; Wednesday's match was Kohli's 106th game. India's greatest batsman, Sachin Tendulkar, scored his 15th one-day century in his 182nd match.

India had lost two games to Zimbabwe and bowed out of a tri-series competition the last time they played there, in 2010.

Kohli showed he has matured as a cricketer since lining out the team's strategy in the post-match presentation.

"It was still seaming around when we batted; it was a challenge facing their skiddy bowlers," he said.

"The toss plays a major role here in Harare. We have learnt from our past experience over here.

"I am very pleased with the way we played. We needed to play percentage cricket," the captain of a second-string India side said.

Kohli was aided by the debutant Ambati Rayudu, who shared in a 159-run stand for the third wicket after openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma were dismissed relatively cheaply.

"Virat is playing the best cricket possible and I feel he's the best player in the world in the one-day format right now, so it made it a lot easier for me to bat with him," Rayudu said.

Kohli and Rayudu made serene progress throughout the afternoon as Zimbabwe failed to apply pressure with either tight bowling or slick fielding, until Kohli was caught on the long-off boundary off the bowling of Prosper Utseya as he looked to finish the match quickly.

Utseya then had Suresh Raina caught at cover two balls later, but Rayudu crunched a drive to the extra cover boundary three overs later to finish the job and end unbeaten on 63.

India's victory was set up by their bowlers, who took advantage of some lateral movement up front to restrict Zimbabwe early on.

The openers Vusi Sibanda and Sikandar Raza opted for a patient approach in a 72-run opening stand, which was broken when Sibanda was trapped lbw by an Amit Mishra googly.

Raza increased the tempo as the innings wore on, but lost partners at regular intervals as Zimbabwe's middle order struggled against India's disciplined bowling.

"All three of their seamers bowled really well, but it wasn't just them - the spinners came on and bogged us down with a lot of dot balls," Raza said.

"Overall it was just really difficult to score."

The Pakistan-born batsman went on to record his first half-century, before he, too, failed to read Mishra's googly and was bowled for 82.

Although Elton Chigumbura struck six fours and a six to give Zimbabwe a respectable score, it did not prove a competitive one as India's batsmen never looked like allowing the Zimbabweans an upset.

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