India looks for hat-trick of wins at Kochi

Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2002, 20:33 [IST]
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Kochi: Having shrugged off the Faridabad shock with a comprehensive 64-run victory in the second match, India would now be hoping for a smooth sailing in the remainder of the series as it goes into the third One-dayer against Zimbabwe on Wednesday. India has won both the matches it has played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and on its current form, a hat-trick at this venue looks a distinct possibility. India has certainly been the better side in the first two matches, the defeat in Faridabad being more due to an extraordinary knock by Douglas Marillier than any major lapse on the part of the host. The best thing to come out from the first two matches for the Indians has been their team effort.

There have been useful contributions from almost every member of the team and they haven't shown over-dependence on any single individual. The opening combination, which was one of the worries after both Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag were ruled out for the series due to injuries, looks to have been sorted out with Dinesh Mongia showing sound technique and temperament at the top. Mongia and skipper Saurav Ganguly have done reasonably well in both the matches, putting on 45 runs in Faridabad and 109 in Mohali.Mongia has produced fluent innings in both the matches and, if anything, he can only be faulted for not being able to convert his fine starts into a big knock.

He was out for 25 and 45 after looking well set and he would surely like to get a big score. Ganguly, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying the Zimbabwe bowling attack. After getting his first Test century as captain in Delhi, he has played two brilliant knocks of 57 and 86 in the One-dayers. V V S Laxman has also looked in tremendous touch in this series, playing fluent knocks in both the matches. Under attack for his penchant of throwing his wicket away after getting into 30s and 40s, Laxman has shown good application this time and scored half-centuries in both games. Rahul Dravid was a revelation in Mohali when he played an unusually attacking knock.

Mohammad Kaif also produced a fine innings under pressure in Faridabad. The only real concern has been Sanjay Bangar, who failed to open his account in both matches. The bowlers have also looked in top-form with left-arm seamer Zaheer Khan and off spinner Harbhajan Singh leading the way. Zaheer Khan has bowled exceptionally well even though his figures were badly mutilated by the Marillier onslaught in his last two overs in Faridabad. He has troubled the batsmen with his yorkers and bouncers and always looked very dangerous.

Local speedster Tinu Yohannan would certainly like to make his One-day debut at his home ground but it is very difficult to see at whose place he can be included in the side. Ajit Agarkar has done reasonably well, contributing both with the bat and the ball and unless India decide to go in with an unlikely combination of three fast bowlers, Yohannan would have to wait further for his first match. Zimbabwe has also had quite a few positives from the first two matches. Expecting Marillier to emulate his Faridabad knock every time he goes out to bat would be asking for too much but the fact that Andy Flower, Alistair Campbell and even Travis Friend have been among the runs would be giving comfort to the Zimbabweans. However, Zimbabwe has not been able to click in unison and that is one area of worry for them.

The bowling is another concern with its attack lacking the sting to bowl India out. It has conceded huge totals in both the matches and even its main strike bowler Heath Streak has gone for runs. Having been asked to chase in both matches, Zimbabwe captain Stuart Carlisle would be hoping to be more lucky with the toss this time. With the pitch here not very different from those at Faridabad and Mohali, Zimbabwe would certainly like to bat first and set a good total so that it can put the India under pressure.

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