Faridabad: India was too strong for nine of the Zimbabwe's players, but the 10th almost single-handedly inflicted one of the most stunning defeats as the home team lost the first One-dayer by one wicket in a thrilling match on Thursday.The Indians were drowned in the Marillier avalanche as the Zimbabwean exploded with the most unorthodox strokes all round the wicket. Marillier, who joined the Zimbabwe team for the One-day series, hit an explosive 24-ball 56 blasting 10 fours and one six, to take Zimbabwe past the Indian total of 274 with only two balls remaining. Zimbabwe finished at 276 for nine with the winning runs coming off a four from Marillier.
It was an amazing display by the young Zimababwean, who came at number 10 and demolished all bowlers including Zaheer Khan - the most impressive Indian bowler on view. Needing 48 runs from the last four overs, Zimbabwe's cause was all lost but Marillier made it happen. India had almost wrapped up the match by the 45th over when it dismissed the eighth Zimbabwean wicket at the score of 210. But in a brilliant improvising knock, Marillier took 34 runs from Zaheer Khan's ninth and 10th overs and saw his team through in the company of Tatenda Taibu and Gary Brent.
The Indians were so stunned by the defeat that they took a lot of time to arrive at the presentation ceremony. Skipper Saurav Ganguly said he had never seen such an innings in the seven years of his career. Marillier's achievement shadowed Zaheer Khan's earlier effort during which he produced eight fiery overs claiming four wickets to derail Zimbabwe innings, which had seen two fine knocks from Andy Flower and Alistair Campbell. Zaheer Khan complimented the performances of Ganguly and V V S Laxman who had excelled with the bat earlier in the day.
Fresh from his first Test century as captain, Ganguly cracked a strokeful 57 but it was Laxman who stole the limelight with a neat innings. Under fire for his inability to translate his potential into runs, Laxman produced a sparkling 75-run knock that contained only five fours but included some glorious shots that were a treat to watch. Having suffered the ignominy of being dropped not only from the One-day team against England from also from the second Test against Zimbabwe, Laxman once again showed glimpses of the immense talent he possesses.
And when the Indian innings faltered after a minor collapse in the middle order, Ajit Agarkar blasted an unbeaten 40 from just 19 balls with six fours and a six. He shared a 63-run partnership for the unfinished seventh wicket with Mohammed Kaif, who remind not out on 39, as India added 51 runs from the last five overs. Playing without two of its star batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, India had managed a reasonably good total even though the wicket was perfect for batting. Zimbabwe never looked in the run except when Andy Flower and Campbell were at the crease. Zaheer Khan struck in the very first over of the innings, when he uprooted the off-stump of Craig Wishart who managed only one run and four overs later, he again gave the Zimbabwe innings a jolt when Travis Friend, sent at number three position after his good performance with the bat in the Test matches, edged onto his own stumps. Two down for 21 in the fifth over, Zimbabwe could not have asked for a worse start.
Zaheer Khan continued to trouble the batsmen with well-directed bouncers and yorkers and looked dangerous all the time. But Flower and Campbell not only survived the onslaught but also started attacking. Andy Flower, who had just one good knock in the just-concluded Test series, once again came back to haunt the Indians as he cut and drove with relative ease. He swept off spinner Harbhajan Singh for a six over mid-wicket to bring up Zimbabwe's 40 in the 14th over and then took a four off the very next ball with the same shot. Anil Kumble was surprisingly held back till the 23rd over, but he could not do much when these two batsmen were in full flow.
The two added 111 runs for the third wicket before Andy Flower, who had completed his 47th 50, committed a rare mistake and paid the penalty. He left a lot of gap between his bat and pads and a Kumble delivery took the inside edge on way to the stumps. When Stuart Carlisle (23) and Campbell (84) were sent back by Zaheer Khan, Zimbabwe's run chase seemed to have lost the steam. But Marillier, who came in the 45th over, started hitting shots all over the ground and improvised a lot.
His brilliant knock saw Zimbabwe needing just 10 runs from the last over which Kumble was asked to bowl. The very first ball was dispatched to the extra cover boundary. Six runs from five balls was easy and Marillier did not mess it up. Laxman and Ganguly had earlier placed India in a position of strength with their 77-run second wicket partnership. India had a fluent start to its innings, and had it not been for a minor collapse in the middle-order with two unfortunate run outs, the hosts would have been in a much better position.
After lot of consultations, it was Dinesh Mongia who was asked to open the innings with Ganguly who lived up to his promise of coming at the top if India won the toss. Mongia, who had done exceedingly well in the One-dayers against England at number three, did not let the team down as either. He went for his shots from the start and outscored his captain for as long as he was at the crease.