HARARE: India held on for a narrow four-run win in the opening One-day International against Zimbabwe here on Friday, fighting their way out of trouble and keeping their cool at the end to avoid another loss to a lower-ranked team.
Fresh off a series defeat to Bangladesh, India recovered from 87-5 batting first to post 255-6, thanks to 124 not out by Ambati Rayudu and 77 from Stuart Binny.
They shared an Indian ODI-record partnership of 160 for the sixth wicket to rescue the tourists at Harare Sports Club and post a decent total.
Zimbabwe captain Elton Chigumbura also hit an unbeaten century in the chase to finish on 104, but with Zimbabwe needing 10 off the last over, Bhuvneshwar Kumar held his nerve to give away just five from the final six balls.
India took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, a series the Indians desperately want to win — despite travelling with an under-strength team — following the Bangladesh slump.
India rested regular ODI skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Test captain Virat Kohli and other front-liners for the three ODIs and two Twenty20 games in Harare. Without them, Ajinkya Rahane led India on Friday and almost oversaw a rare defeat to Zimbabwe.
Rahane made 34 but he and Rayudu were the only two batsmen in India’s new-look top six to get into double figures.
Murali Vijay (1), Manoj Tiwary (2), Robin Uthappa (0) and Jadhav (5) all failed before Binny gave Rayudu the support he needed. Rayudu hit 12 fours and a six in his second ODI century and career-best score, and Binny six fours and two sixes for his second ODI half-century.
Zimbabwe used helpful early bowling conditions to rock the Indians after putting them in to bat, with Chamu Chibhabha and Donald Tiripano finishing with two wickets each.
None of the Zimbabwean batsmen stuck around long enough to support Chigumbura in the chase, though. When Graeme Cremer was out last ball of the penultimate over trying to reverse sweep a full toss, it left Chigumbura and tail-ender Tiripano with too much to do.
Axar Patel with 2-41 and Binny with 2-54 had the best bowling figures for India.