Nagpur: Shiv Sundar Das completed his maiden Test century, Rahul Dravid made his 18th half century and India were coasting along at 222 for one at tea in the first Test against Zimbabwe at the Vidharbha Cricket Association ground on Saturday.Das was unbeaten on 110 off 171 balls with 19 hits to the fence, while Dravid was batting on 59 from 130 balls with nine fours. The unbroken second wicket stand had yielded 150 runs with the post lunch session being highly productive.The Indians continued to dominate with the bat in the second session too. Opener Shiv Sundar Das scored his maiden Test century and Rahul Dravid picked up the cudgels from the first Test where he had remained unbeaten.
It was copy book cricket at its best from the blade of Rahul Dravid. The elegant right hander was a connoisseur's delight both in offence and defence. An overpitched delivery outside the off stump was sent crashing to the fence with the right foot and the bat in perfect position.When the Zimbabwe bowlers bowled a tidy line and length, the bat was brought down in impeccable defence. It must really been a wonderful lesson for India's new specialist opener Das to watch from the other end. The Zimbabweans too would definitely have appreciated the class of this quality Indian middle order batsman.India were off to a bright and positive start with the openers Sadagopan Ramesh and Das adding 72 runs for the first wicket.
Ramesh and Das justified captain Saurav Ganguly's decision of opting to take first strike on winning the toss. Both played confidently and elegantly against the Zimbabwean new ball attack.Ramesh was especially pleasing on the off side. He repeatedly steered the Zimbabwean bowlers through the third man region much to the delight of the home crowd. Das on the other hand was solid in defence and keeping his end up brilliantly.The partnership was broken the only way it could be and that was a run out. Ramesh, never known to be a quickie between the wickets, fell to a brilliant piece of fielding by Zimbabwe captain Heath Streak.
The left-handed Indian opener flicked the ball to the on side and darted off for a quick single. Streak running around from mid on, gathered the ball and broke the stumps with a direct throw from zero angle. Ramesh scored 48 runs off 65 balls with seven fours.India made two changes from the first Test that they won at New Delhi. Left-arm medium pacer Zaheer Khan and off-spinner Sharandeep Singh were brought into the team instead of V V S Laxman and left-arm spinner Murali Kartik.
Zimbabwe too had to make a replacement as Paul Strang had to return to Zimbabwe due to a shoulder injury. Left-arm spinner Dirk Viljoen, who was flown in as replacement, was included in the squad. Zimbabwe also replaced Bryan Strang with Mluleki Nkala.
The teams: India: Saurav Ganguly (captain), Shiv Das, Sadagopan Ramesh, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Vijay Dahiya, Sunil Joshi, Sharandeep Singh, Javagal Srinath, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan.
Zimbabwe: Heath Streak (capt), Grant Flower, Gavin Rennie, Stuart Carlisle, Alistair Campbell, Andy Flower, Guy Whittall, Brian Murphy, Mluleki Nkala, Dirk Viljoen and Henry Olonga.