Suresh Raina hit a century as India spoiled Brendan Taylor’s farewell party with a hard-fought six-wicket win in the World Cup Pool B match in Auckland on Saturday. Raina survived two dropped catches during his unbeaten 104-ball 110 as India chased down a stiff 288-run target in 48.4 overs for their sixth win in as many matches.
Departing Zimbabwe batsman Taylor had anchored Zimbabwe’s 287 all out with a punishing 110-ball 138 in what was his last international after signing a deal with English county Nottinghamshire. With India on 158-4, and Raina on 47, Zimbabwe spurned a good chance of pressing for a win when Hamilton Masakadza dropped a sitter at short fine-leg off Sikander Raza.
It was Masakadza who was at the receiving end of the second chance when wicket-keeper Taylor dropped Raina off his bowling with his score on 71.
The left-hander punished Zimbabwe by completing his fifth one-day hundred — his first in World Cups — reaching the three-figure mark off 94 balls. In all he hit nine boundaries and four sixes.
With India in a spot of bother at 92-4, when Raza bowled Virat Kohli for 38, Raina found an able partner in skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni as the experienced duo added 196 for an unbroken fifth wicket stand. Dhoni finished with 85 not out off 76 balls, hitting the winning six off Tinashe Panyangara, his second in addition to eight boundaries.
India had lost opener Rohit Sharma (16), in-form Shikhar Dhawan (four) and Ajinkya Rahane (19), with two of the wickets going to Panyangara.
Earlier Taylor smashed 15 boundaries and five towering sixes in his brilliant knock. His ton anchored his team, unable to qualify for the quarter-finals, after they were sent into bat by the defending champions.
He added an invaluable 93 for the fourth wicket with Sean Williams (50) and another 109 for the next with Craig Ervine (27) to help Zimbabwe recover from a struggling 33 for three.
Taylor guided paceman Mohammad Shami’s short-pitched ball over the third man boundary for a six to reach his successive hundred in this World Cup off 99 balls.
In the process Taylor became the only Zimbabwe batsman to hit back-to-back hundreds at the World Cup, with this innings following his 121 against Ireland.
Taylor then smashed left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja for three boundaries and two sixes in one over to complete his 400 runs in the tournament - another Zimbabwe first at a World Cup. He was eventually out off paceman Mohit Sharma, who also ended Ervine’s knock to finish with three for 48. Shami and Umesh Yadav also took three wickets apiece.
Before Taylor came into his own, Zimbabwe had lost Masakadza (two), Chamu Chibhabha (seven) and Solomon Mire (nine) by the 11th over. Pakistan-born Raza chipped in with a 15-ball 28, including three sixes and a four, to give the innings some much-needed impetus.
For the first time in the tournament, India’s bowling was tested as spinners Ravichandran Ashwin went for 75 and Jadeja for 71 respectively in their ten overs apiece. India will face Bangladesh in thee quarter-finals in Melbourne on March 19.