Rajkot: India broke the Rajkot jinx thanks to the heroics of man-of-the-match Ajit Agarkar. India beat Zimbabwe by 39 runs in the fifth and final One-day International to take the series 4-1 at the Rajkot Municipal Stadium on Thursday. Zimbabwe were all out for 262 runs chasing India's 301 for six.The Zimbabwean run chase began in right earnest with the visiting batsmen very clear about their intentions. Runs came thick and fast against the Indian opening attack of Venkatesh Prasad and Reetinder Singh Sodhi. The Zimbabweans made the best use of the fast outfield to set up a run rate of nearly seven runs per over in the initial phase of their chase.Sodhi followed up his good batting effort by picking up the wickets of Alistair Campbell and Gavin Rennie.
Ajit Agarkar got the wicket of Andy Flower before he could settle down, but Zimbabwe maintained a very healthy run rate to reach 146 for three by the half way mark.Travor Madondo, who opened the innings with Campbell, was going along very nicely till he was undone by Sridharan Sriram. Madondo failed to read a well flighted delivery from Sriram to be bowled for 71 runs from 70 balls with 10 fours. Zimbabwe lost another quick wicket when Virender Sehwag got an lbw verdict against Grant Flower to plunge Zimbabwe to 156 for five.Sehwag claimed his second wicket when he had Guy Whittall caught by Agarkar. Zimbabwe lost three wickets for addition of 40 runs in 10 overs to reach 186 for six by the end of the 35th over.
This pushed the run rate to over eight per over putting pressure on the visiting side. The pressure told on the Zimbabweans thereafter and they began to lose wickets at regular intervals.Agarkar followed up his splendid batting performance with a three-wicket haul. Agarkar smashed 67 runs off 25 balls to propel India to 301 for six. Agarkar scored the fastest ever 50 by an Indian in ODIs when he reached the land mark off just 21 deliveries.Agarkar broke the record set by Kapil Dev, who hammered 50 off 22 balls against the West Indies in 1983. Agarkar, Hemang Badani (77) and Reetinder Singh Sodhi (53 not out, 67 balls, four fours and one six) pushed India into the comfort zone of over 300 runs.
India added 109 runs from the last 10 overs with Agarkar leading the charge. Agarkar smashed seven fours and four sixes to give the spectators their money's worth. Left-handed batsman Hemang Badani once again proved how useful he could be in the Indian middle order. Badani propped up the sagging Indian middle order after the home team was asked to bat by the Zimbabwean skipper Heath Streak. He shored up the Indian innings up from 114 for five in the company of Sodhi, who made the best use of this opportunity to prove his worth.The Indian innings, with skipper Saurav Ganguly forced to sit out with a one-match suspension, never really got going in the initial phase.
Sridharan Sriram, who was promoted up the order, failed utilise this golden opportunity. Streak exploited the left-handers weakness outside the off stump and Andy Flower took the catch behind the wickets.Stand in skipper Rahul Dravid began in his usual confident self but fell soon to Strang when he was caught by Streak. Sachin Tendulkar was also in an aggressive mood and tried to go after the Zimbabwean bowling. Tendulkar paid the price for his over aggression when he dragged Nkala on to the stumps.Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag sparkled but briefly. It was Badani, Sodhi and Agarkar all the way as they set India up for a possible victory. Yuvraj Singh got the nod instead of Ganguly, while Sodhi replaced Zaheer Khan, who earned a well deserved rest with India already having clinched the series.