Colombo: Mohammad Kaif slammed an unbeaten 111 for his maiden century to help India survive a Douglas Hondo scare in the Champions Trophy One-day cricket match against Zimbabwe on Saturday. The 21-year-old batted well under pressure as India recovered from 87-5 to post a challenging 288 for 6 after electing to bat in the day-night match at the Premadasa Stadium.
The young middle-order batsman put on 117 for the sixth wicket with Rahul Dravid (71) and 84 for the next with tail-ender Anil Kumble (18 not out) after fast bowler Hondo had nearly ruined the Indian batting reputation with a four-wicket burst in his lively opening seven overs. Kaif, who reached his half-century off 70 balls, needed 37 more deliveries to complete his first ton in 19 One-dayers. He improvised brilliantly in the slog-overs with two behind-the-wicket fours off seamer Sean Ervine. Dravid struck six fours in his 40th half-century and Kaif one six and eight boundaries in his 112-ball knock as India overcame a horror start to its first match of the tournament. Hondo, 23, revived memories of his team's clash with India at Cochin, where he wrecked the hosts' top order with a four-wicket spell to set up a stunning Zimbabwean victory. India, however, managed to overcome Hondo's incisive spell this time as Kaif and Dravid came to their rescue with commendable knocks. Hondo was well supported by first-slip Alistair Campbell, who took three catches to account for India skipper Saurav Ganguly (13), Dinesh Mongia (nought) and Sachin Tendulkar (7). India maintained an impressive run-rate despite losing wickets at regular intervals as opener Virender Sehwag exploded with a flurry of strokes, smashing eight fours in his 36-ball 48. In-form Dravid, who scored 602 in four recent Tests in England, then steadied the innings with his sensible batting as he worked the ball smartly into the gaps to keep the scoreboard moving. Kaif initially took no risks and hit just one four in his half-century. Zimbabwe struggled to find wicket-takers after Hondo's impressive spell as none could keep pressure on Dravid and Kaif.
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