Vice-captain Shikhar Dhawan and his opening partner Shubman Gill slammed unbeaten half-centuries to give India a resounding 10-wicket victory in their ODI series opener against Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club on Thursday.
After Axar Patel, Deepak Chahar and Prasidh Krishna picked three wickets each to bowl out Zimbabwe for 189 in 40.3 overs, Gill (82 not out, 4x10 and a 6x1) and Dhawan (81 not out, 4x9) were unbroken in their opening partnership to chase down the total and help India take 1-0 lead in three-match series.
The win is also India's third 10-wicket victory over Zimbabwe in ODIs and also their 13th consecutive triumph over the hosts' in 50-over cricket. A major part of the Dhawan-Gill stand was how Dhawan, the early aggressor, took a backseat for some time when Gill found his groove after a watchful beginning in the innings.
Dhawan began the chase of 190 with back-to-back boundaries off Richard Ngarava -- a tickle through fine leg was followed by slicing over backward point. He and Shubman Gill focused on strike rotation with a few lbw shouts in between from the Zimbabwe bowlers.
Dhawan broke the rut of boundaries by cutting past square gully on some width provided by Ngarava. As Gill continued to take time, Dhawan quickly pulled off Sean Williams and also had a life when Brad Evans dropped the catch at square leg.
Gill, now 24 balls without a boundary, got back-to-back boundaries in as many balls off Evans. A cut on a short delivery through the square region was followed by an edge through the vacant slip region. He ended the 14th over by punching through cover point, as 16 runs came off it.
Dhawan got his fifty when he punched to long-on and on the very next ball, he lofted inside-out over extra cover to bring up India's hundred and complete a century of his opening stand with Gill.
Helped by some extras and loose bowling from Zimbabwe's bowlers, Dhawan and Gill continued to be undeterred in the chase. Gill then slammed successive fours off Ryan Burl -- a drive through extra cover was followed by smash through cover-point -- to reach his third ODI fifty in the last four matches in 52 balls.
Gill shifted his gears seamlessly by hitting a four and a six over the leg-side boundary off Madhevere's successive deliveries to bring up India's 150. Dhawan and Gill knocked off the rest of the needed runs with immaculate ease, with the latter's short-arm pull being the standout, as India sealed the game with 115 balls to spare.
Brief scores: Zimbabwe 189 all out in 40.3 overs (Regis Chakabva 35, Richard Ngarava 34; Axar Patel 3-24, Deepak Chahar 3-27) lost to India (Shubman Gill 82 not out, Shikhar Dhawan 81 not out) by 10 wickets