Bowlers set the stage and Samson finishes the job as India notch up series win

India 167 for 5 (Samson 43*, Jongwe 2-33) beat Zimbabwe 161 (Williams 42, Burl 39*, Thakur 3-38) by five wickets

A complete bowling performance led by Shardul Thakur‘s three-for, followed by a 56-run partnership between Deepak Hooda and Sanju Samson, helped India inflict a 14th straight ODI defeat on Zimbabwe to win the three-ODI series, on Saturday in Harare, with one game to go.

Thakur got the most wickets for India on the day. But it was a collective effort, with Mohammed Siraj‘s eight overs going for just 16 runs, and all the bowlers on show getting among the wickets to bowl Zimbabwe out for 161. In reply, India cruised home with five wickets and more than 24 overs to spare.

After being asked to bat, Zimbabwe openers Takudzwanashe Kaitano, brought in for Tadiwanashe Marumani, and Innocent Kaia began cautiously. Having lost four wickets in just over ten overs in the first ODI, the instruction, clearly, was to conserve wickets upfront, when there is help for seamers.

They crawled to 12 for none in seven overs when Kaia decided to attack Thakur. He used the cross-batted pull to send one past mid-on’s right before flicking one well over midwicket in Thakur’s next.

But Siraj struck from the other end when he had Kaitano edging one to wicketkeeper Samson, who dived to his right to cling on after having been wrong-footed. Thakur then bookended his third over with the wickets of Kaia and Regis Chakabva, before Prasidh Krishna‘s peach had Wessly Madhevere walking back.

It was familiar territory for Zimbabwe despite the watchfulness at the start, with the scoreboard reading 31 for 4 after 12.4 overs. It had been 31 for 4 in 10.1 the last time.

Sikandar Raza and Sean Williams, moved down to No. 6, then held fort for a while; with Axar Patel and Kuldeep Yadav in the attack, they stayed firm despite looking uncomfortable. Raza, in particular, struggled against Axar, who was mixing his orthodox spinners and arm balls, and survived a strong lbw appeal too. But Raza fell to Kuldeep when he sliced one to backward point, ending a 41-run union with Williams.

Williams found the boundaries and ran well between the wickets, and looked on course for his second fifty-plus score in ODIs in 2022, when he slogged Hooda straight to deep backward square-leg. Along with Ryan Burl, he had just started to rebuild the innings with a 33-run stand.

Thakur then returned to bounce out Luke Jongwe, which opened the floodgates all over again. Burl was left stranded on 39 not out as Axar had Brad Evans – dropped earlier by Kuldeep off his own bowling – chopping on before the last two batters were run-out.

In the reply, Shikhar Dhawan got off to a rollicking start, even as captain KL Rahul, promoted to the top, fell lbw to Victor Nyauchi for just 1.

Dhawan used his feet against the high pace of Tanaka Chivanga, who replaced Richard Ngarava in the Zimbabwe XI, cutting and driving well. India had raced to 41 for 1 inside six overs before Chivanga got revenge with a perfect fast bowler’s response. After being driven crisply through covers, Chivanga angled a bouncer into Dhawan, who was caught off guard, and skied the pull towards midwicket.

Shubman Gill, who had finished 82 not out in the first game when Dhawan got 81 not out in the ten-wicket win, got going from No. 3 with a pull through midwicket before hitting a couple of drives through the covers off Nyauchi.

However, Jongwe managed to strike twice in two overs to peg India back. He first had Ishan Kishan playing away from his body and inside-edging on to his stumps and then had Gill hop and cut one straight down deep third’s throat.

But Hooda and Samson ensured the chase didn’t stutter while unveiling some of their best attacking shots. Samson took a special liking to the spin of Raza and Williams, hitting the two for three sixes combined, before smacking another one off the legspin of Kaia to seal the win. Batting at No. 6, Samson finished on 43 not out off just 39 balls to exhibit his finishing prowess and perhaps provide another reminder of his abilities in white-ball cricket.

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