India vs Zimbabwe three things: Rahane’s flaws, Bhuvi’s success and Harbhajan’s smile

After a tight and thrilling first ODI, India romped to a comfortable 62-run win in the second one-dayer against Zimbabwe to win the three-game series 2-0. While it was an average batting performance, India’s seam bowlers broke the back of the chase with early wickets and the spinners backed them up and kept the pressure on Zimbabwe.
Here are three things we took from the second ODI:
Ajinkya Rahane’s innings showcased his flaws as an ODI batsman
That Rahane is opening in this series is the right call. It’s the batting position that offers the most value to the team. But he is still very much a work-in-progress in the 50-over game.
For starters, a strike-rate of 75.90 is never going to set pulses racing. When the competition is Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, who boast career strike-rates of 82.46 and 90.06 respectively, it looks even worse. While Rohit also eats up a lot of deliveries early on, he has the power to make up for it later, which Rahane does not.
Then, there is the manner in which Rahane constructed his innings. Of the 83 balls, he faced, 45 were dot balls. That meant no runs were scored from a whopping 54 percent of the balls bowled to Rahane. In contrast, Ambati Rayudu was held scoreless only 36 percent of the time (18 balls out of 50 faced). Rayudu also took 29 singles in the course of making 41; Rahane managed 27 while making 63, so he rotated the strike that much less.
In an age of free scoring, India can’t afford Rahane’s returns. But Rahane can’t be expected to improve if he is sitting on the bench. Besides, Rahane has shown in the IPL that he can learn to score quicker if given the chance.
Writing for ESPNcricinfo, Aakash Chopra offers a solution. He points out that Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina have also struggled in their one-day careers but India stuck with them and were rewarded.
“If Rohit and Raina were given options, why can’t Rahane be allowed to grow as an ODI cricketer by pushing him up to open with Shikhar Dhawan? Yes, it would mean Rohit batting at No. 5, but that is where he started his ODI career, and he is definitely better suited to finishing games off than Rahane. Plus, a middle order comprising Kohli, Dhoni, Rohit and Raina has a more formidable look.”
Bhuvneshwar Kumar finds his pace and his movement.
Bhuvneshwar was clearly struggling in Australia. His pace was down below 130 kph and his often prodigious swing had deserted him. Batsmen’s eyes lit up at the sight of him as they all they had to do was swing through the line.
While he had a good IPL that seemed to restore some of his confidence, he failed to distinguish himself in the ODI series against Bangladesh, and was dropped for the third and final game.
Against Zimbabwe though, Bhuvneshwar’s pace has been back above 130 kph and he produced a couple of those big inswingers that rattled Pakistani stumps on his ODI debut back in 2013. He was also able to get the ball to move away from the right-hander and his opening spell read: 6-3-19-2, with both his wickets coming via outswingers that found the edge of the bat. He would come back and take two late wickets to finish with 4 for 33.
To be sure, Zimbabwe are not the most accomplished of batting sides but these are still good signs from Bhuvneshwar. India don’t just need the control he gives them with the new ball, they need him to take wickets with it too.
Harbhajan Singh appears to be enjoying his second coming
In Harbhajan’s second over, Sean Williams charged down the track but failed to get to the pitch of the ball. He ended up slicing his shot over cover. Rahane ran backwards towards the ball while Manoj Tiwary ran in from the boundary. Rahane appeared to call for it but neither Tiwary kept coming and though he got his hands on the ball, in an attempt avoid colliding with his captain, spilled the catch.
Harbhajan merely smiled.
In his fifth over, Williams reverse-swept the ball straight at Murali Vijay’s chest at slip. Somehow it popped out of Vijay’s hands.
If Harbjahan was annoyed, he didn’t show it. Instead he continued to toss the ball up, inviting the batsmen to take him on.
In his eight over, Harbhajan fooled Sikandar Raza and the ball took the outside edge. It then struck Robin Uthappa’s pads behind stumps and looped square of the wicket on the offside. Uthappa threw himself to his right and just managed to get his gloves under the ball before it hit the ground. For a moment, the umpire didn’t move but then the batsman walked.
Harbhajan broke into his biggest smile of the day.
He would finish with figures of 1 for 29 but more than the way he bowled, it was the way he behaved that stood out. The normally feisty Harbhajan – think Monkeygate and the Sreesanth slapping – looked to be having fun in the middle despite the miscues and the dropped catches.
Perhaps for all his public pronouncements to the contrary, Harbhajan did harbour some doubt about playing for India again. And now that he has been given that opportunity, he is determined to enjoy it.
Whatever the truth of the matter, it was refreshing to watch and a reminder that despite all the commercial pressures of modern sport, it is, at its heart, about having fun.

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