India ensured their first match with Zimbabwe since 2010 was a winning one, as Virat Kohli compiled a superb 115 to lead his side to a six-wicket victory in Harare.
In the first of what is a five-match series, India fielded a relatively inexperienced side, but they still proved far too good. Batting first, Zimbabwe made 228 for 7 from their 50 overs, but it never looked like it was enough. Kohli went through the gears in the run chase, as India cruised home with 31 balls to spare.
Winters in Zimbabwe often offer up seamer-friendly conditions, and that was the case early on after India won the toss and elected to field.
Vusi Sibanda and Sikandar Raza scored at a shade over three an over for the first 20 overs, as the ball hooped around for India’s pacemen.
Sibanda became the first of three victims for Amit Mishra, who trapped the opener leg before wicket for 32, as India turned to spin effectively.
Brendan Taylor is Zimbabwe’s most accomplished batsman, and when he came to the crease in the 34th over, the run rate picked up appreciably. But just as he looked set to cut loose, Taylor was caught at deep square leg by Suresh Raina to hand Jaydev Unadkat a wicket on his ODI debut.
Raza fell 18 short of his century as the Zimbabwe effort stalled, but some clean hitting from Elton Chigumbura in a 34-ball 43 took Zimbabwe to a respectable total.
It may have been a competitive score against many teams, but India have deep batting options and, in Kohli, one of the most in-form batsmen in world cricket.
Kohli strode out at the fall of Shikhar Dhawan and took control of the run chase. With a strike rate of over 100, Kohli cantered to his 15th ODI century and in so doing he became the fastest player to that landmark, per Rajneesh Gupta.
The India captain found a willing ally in Ambati Rayudu, a player tipped for greatness from a young age before his career stalled. At 27, this match marked his debut for the national side, and he took his chance in some style with a fine, unbeaten 63.
Kohli holed out in the deep, and Prosper Utseya sent Raina back for a duck in the same over. But India required only 13 to win at that point and eased home to take a lead in the series.