Harare: Under-fire Indian captain Saurav Ganguly grabbed three wickets in six balls on Wednesday to resurrect his team's World Cup campaign and lift the mood of millions of fans back home. The Indians bowled out hosts Zimbabwe for 172 in 44.4 overs after Sachin Tendulkar's 81 had steered them to 255 for seven in a match India had to win to stay in contention for a place in the Super Six.
India's emphatic 83-run win will help restore calm in the cricket-crazy country after fans mounted angry protests at the dismal performance in the first two matches when the batsmen failed to last 50 overs against the Netherlands and were shot out for 125 by reigning champions Australia. With eight points from three matches, India will still need to beat both England and arch-rivals Pakistan to ensure a place in the second round. India next plays minnows Namibia at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa on Sunday.
Ganguly, struggling to score runs which made him abandon his regular place as One- day opener, was dismissed for 24 when he came in to bat at number four. But he struck gold with his seam bowling, removing Grant Flower and Deon Ebrahim off consecutive deliveries before having Andy Blignaut caught in the deep to reduce Zimbabwe to 87 for six. Ganguly took over after pace spearhead Javagal Srinath picked up two early wickets and off spinner Harbhajan Singh bowled the dangerous Andy Flower to rip through the top order.
Young wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu was left stranded on an unbeaten 29 as Zaheer Khan grabbed the last two wickets. Earlier, Tendulkar kept the Indian batting afloat after they were sent in to bat in overcast conditions at the Harare Sports Club. Tendulkar and his new opening partner Virender Sehwag smashed a run-a-ball 99 for the first wicket before the familiar middle order collapse undid their good work. India, 142 for one at one stage, lost five wickets for 85 runs as part-time spinner Grant Flower grabbed two wickets in three balls to help Zimbabwe wrest back the initiative.
Rahul Dravid returned unbeaten on 43 and Mohammad Kaif made 25 to carry India beyond the 250-run mark. Tendulkar, who had top scored in the previous two matches, hit 10 boundaries in his 91-ball innings. Sehwag made 36 off 38 balls when he was caught behind off Guy Whittall. Grant Flower, bowling left-arm spinners, scared the Indians by removing Dinesh Mongia and Tendulkar off successive deliveries in the 28th over. Tendulkar, looking for his 34th One-day century, fell to a beauty as the ball pitched on the leg stump and clipped the off bail to the delight of the Zimbabweans.
The Indian batting star was jeered off the field after waiting for the third-umpire confirmation that the bail had not been knocked off by wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu. Ganguly hit a six with a straight drive off leg spinner Brian Murphy, but made only 24 when he was caught off the leading edge as he attempted to drive Blignaut. Yuvraj Singh fell to Murphy, while Kaif was trapped leg before by Douglas Hondo after smashing a four and six earlier in the over. Copyright AFP 2001