Mohali: In a rare innings when handsome contributions came from all the top batsmen, India notched up an impressive 319 for six in its allotted 50 overs to set a difficult run-chase for Zimbabwe in the second One-day International match on Sunday.Skipper Saurav Ganguly, V V S Laxman and Rahul Dravid struck fine half-centuries to enable their team post its highest total at this ground after it had elected to bat first. Coming into the match after facing a stunning Douglas Marillier engineered defeat in Faridabad, the Indian batsmen went after the bowling right from the start and maintained a steady run rate of around six an over throughout the innings.
Ganguly top-scored with 86 off only 83 balls hitting eight four and three sixes while Laxman hit 52, both the batsmen coming up with their second successive half- century knocks in this series. However, it was Dravid who surprised the most with an uncharacteristically aggressive knock. Coming at the fall of Ganguly, Dravid remained unbeaten on a 59- ball 66 with six boundaries. He even attempted to do a Marillier twice, trying the scoop shot over the wicket-keeper's head during the last overs, though unsuccessfully. Dinesh Mongia also chipped in with a well-made 45, the combined efforts taking India to its best ever total against Zimbabwe, surpassing the 306 for five in Ahemdabad (2000-01) and put it in a strong position to level the series.
It was once again Mongia who set the momentum, taking full advantage of the field restrictions of the first 15 overs. Never afraid to chip the ball over the in-field, he picked up a few easy boundaries on both sides of the wicket. The Zimbabwe new ball bowlers Heath Streak and Travis Friend hardly helped their team's cause with a highly erratic line in their first spells. Both fed the Indian batsmen with short and wide deliveries and paid the penalty. The Indians chugged along nicely, pulling and hooking with aplomb, to bring up the first 50 in the seventh over. Both the batsmen ran neck and neck though Mongia was more flashy in his approach, scoring the majority of the fours. The bowling changes did not make much difference and runs continued to flow for India.
Gary Brent, who replaced Friend in the eighth over, went for 15 runs in two consecutive overs with Ganguly hoisting him for a majestic six, his first, over long- on. Then came an over of 11 balls in which Friend sent down five wides. In fact most of the Zimbabwe bowlers were guilty of erring in line and conceded as many as 34 extras, including 25 wides and two no-balls. The openers raised India's hundred in the 14th overs before Mongia fell at 109. Trying to go for a long-off boundary, Mongia failed to clear Friend at short mid-off and was caught off the last ball of the 15th over for 45, which included nine hits to the fence.
But India continued to score at well above six an over with Ganguly breaking loose. After reaching his 45th One-day half-century off only 51 balls, he twice danced down the track to loft Grant Flower out of the ground and also cut and drove him once each for boundaries to race into the eighties. Ganguly also became the second highest scorer as captain of Indian team when he took a three to reach seven. He now has 2536 runs from 59 innings as captain with only Mohammad Azharuddin, who scored 5239 from 174 innings, ahead of him. But a hundred eluded the Indian skipper when he was run out while reluctantly going for the second run, India losing its second wicket at 190 after Ganguly and Laxman had added 81 in less than 14.1 overs.
Laxman continued with his new found form, producing another fine innings. Once again there were not many boundaries in his 72-ball knock but his trademark drives and pulls were as effective anyway. Laxman put on 53 for the third wicket with Dravid before edging a Friend delivery while attempting a pull to give a catch to Dion Ebrahim at point. But Dravid looked in a punishing mood on Sunday, repeatedly stepping out of his crease, even against the fast bowlers, and scored all over the ground.
Wickets tumbled from the other end with Mohd Kaif and Ajit Agarkar unable to repeat their gutsy knock in Faridabad and Sanjay Bangar being dismissed for a duck for the second time in the series, but runs continued to come at a fast clip for India. Local boy Harbhajan Singh sent an overflowing crowd into ruptures with his cameo little knock of 15 off just nine deliveries.