India galloped into the quarter-finals with a six-wicket win over Zimbabwe in their last game of the league phase of the ICC Cricket World Cup, 2015. Left struggling on 92 for four, Suresh Raina (110*) and MS Dhoni (85*) scripted India's reply with well crafted unbroken 196-run partnership to chase down the 288-run target. Brendon Taylor's last century for Zimbabwe went in vain as the batsmen to follow failed to capitalise on the platform he had laid with a magnificent 138.
After Dhoni Elected to field in Auckland, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma put up a disciplined performance as they struck early blows and later reined the opposition in after the spinners had been bludgeoned by Brendon Taylor and co. Although Zimbabwe looked set for a 300-run total, the Indian pacers returned to bowl them out with seven balls to spare.
Earlier, Yadav took the edge off Hamilton Masakadza's bat through to Dhoni to deal the first blow. In the next, Chamu Chibhabha edged Shami and Shikhar Dhawan took a sharp catch diving to his right in slips. And 20 runs later, Mohit claimed Solomon Mire in his first over; the ball brushed past the bat and through to the wicketkeeper to leave the opposition on 33 for three.
Sean Williams, who then joined Taylor helped rebuild with a well compiled 93-run stand. Having survived a tough chance while on two, he assisted the captain to boost the side to a competitive score.
Batting circumspectly, they brought up the team fifty. And after they had the measure of the conditions they took on the spin duo – Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Re-introduced into the attack after a tidy single over first spell, Ashwin was clobbered by the Zimbabwe batsmen. Taylor welcomed him back with a reverse-sweep and from there on there was no looking back. After being whacked over mid-wicket for six by Williams, Ashwin was gleaned for 16 runs in his next. Williams powered him over mid-wicket and the cow-corner for sixes and punched him through the covers. However, couple of overs later, Ashwin took a low return catch to send Williams' back for 50.
Then Ervine Craig forged a 109-run stand with Taylor to set up a solid total. After a few busy overs taking singles interspersed with a boundary, the Zimbabwe captain unleashed himself on Ashwin and collected a boundary and six off the off-spinner to keep the momentum going.
The pair collected 49 runs in the powerplay as they coasted forward. While Ashwin was dispatched to the fence twice in his over, Taylor brought his second consecutive century by hitting Shami into the stands and the team's 200 with six over mid-off.
An over later Taylor swept Jadeja to the ropes and became the first Zimbabwean to score 400 runs in a World Cup with a boundary off the next ball. And with a six over long-off he became the second highest run-scorer of the tournament and followed it up with a boundary and six to collect 25 from the over. In the following over though, he departed taking the aerial route off Mohit.
In his next, Mohit got better of Ervine with his back-of-the hand slower delivery, which had the batsman top-edging it back to the bowler.
Wickets fell in the last five overs as the batsmen tried to capitalise on the platform by the captain but perished in the effort to set India a formidable target. Sikandar Raza, who had whipped three sixes was dismissed by. After being hit for sixes over extra-cover and mid-wicket, the pacer yorked Raza and in his next Tinashe Panyangara hit Shami straight down the throat of deep mid-wicket. Yadav then had Regis Chakabva caught by Rohit Sharma in the deep and three balls later disrupted Tendai Chatara's woodwork to wrap-up Zimbabwe's innings for 287.
India then lost both their openers to Panyangara with 21 runs on the board. While Rohit Sharma spooned the ball towards cover, Shikhar Dhawan was castled for four. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane then diligently stitched a 50-run stand with singles and twos until the latter ran himself out looking for a single.
Six overs later, while looking to sweep Raza, Kohli found his bails dislodged. At 92 for four, the India captain joined Suresh Raina in the middle.
With runs hard to come by, the pair worked the ball around to keep the score board ticking. But with the run-rate climbing up, the left-hand bat took on Williams and lofted him over deep mid-wicket and long-on for consecutive sixes. An over later, Dhoni slammed Mire to the fence twice as the pair worked to maintain a steady flow of runs.
As they looked to up the ante, Raina swept Raza and was dropped by Masakadza at short fine-leg for 47. India were neck-and-neck with the opposition as they entered the powerplay. An over later Raina brought up a timely scored half-century with a boundary to long-off as the pair carried forward. The next over yielded 12 runs for India as both scored a boundary each.
Although they could take only two of the next, Raina dismissed Panyangara for six as they plucked 13 of the next to keep the match hanging in balance. Dhoni then dispatched Raza to the long-leg boundary and take India past 200. While they kept the strike rotating, Raina took on the bowlers with ease. While he had lofted the bowlers, the left-hand bat also nudged the ball through the gaps and drove it to the ropes.
Dhoni too reached his fifty as they wrested the momentum from opponents while Raina soon brought up his century with single. After keeping the required run-rate in check with quick running between the wickets, the skipper too lofted the ball over the boundary as they cruised to the target. As he has done before, Dhoni took India across the line with a six over square-leg.
Zimbabwe 287 all out in 48.5 overs (B Taylor 138, S Williams 50, U Yadav 3/43, M Shami 3/48, M Sharma 3/48) lost to India 288/4 in 48.4 overs (S Raina 110, MS Dhoni 85, T Panyangara 2/53) by six wickets
Man of the Match: Suresh Raina for his match-winning 110*