Harare: A clinical India clinched the three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe, pulling off another fine all-round show to crush the minnows by eight wickets for an unassailable 2-0 lead, here on Monday.
It was a dominant performance yet again from the new-look Indian side whose bowlers first skittled the hosts for a lowly 126 in 34.3 overs and the batsmen hardly broke a sweat to get past the target in only 26.5 overs.
If India manage a cleansweep by winning the third ODI on Wednesday, then it would be a hat-trick of series wins for the Indian teams, maintaining a clean slate in the African nation after their victories in 2013 and 2015.
If young leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal (3/25) broke the backbone of the Zimbabwe middle-order, it was Ambati Rayudu who hit 41 off 44 balls to finish the game with a flourish.
With the target hardly posing any challenge, last match's centurion KL Rahul (33) added 58 runs in company of Karun Nair (39 off 68 balls) for the opening stand. The Rayudu-Nair pair added 67 runs for the second wicket.
Nair, on his part, got much-needed confidence with some runs under his belt but the manner in which he played was more about self preservation on a slightly tricky track.
When Nair was finally gone trying to sweep a straight delivery from Graeme Cremer, India needed only two runs which Manish Pandey (4 no) completed with a boundary.
But it was Rayudu, who hit a flurry of boundaries --- seven in all to finish the match with 23.1 overs to spare. With ball darting around a bit, the Indian batsmen were cautious and Nair for one was lucky to get a reprieve when he edged one off Tendai Chatara only to find that the bowler had overstepped.
He celebrated his charmed life with a down the ground hit off the very next ball.
Nair also drove and pulled Chatara for a couple of boundaries to settle down into a good rhythm.
Chatara was also handed some rough treatment from Rahul who got a couple of boundaries with a cover drive and a cut shot. He also got a couple of boundaries off seamer Taurai Muzarabani.
Rahul looked solid for at least another half-century but he dragged one from Chamu Chibhabha onto his stumps. He had four boundaries in his 50-ball knock.
Rayudu, who was unusually subdued during his half-century in the first game, started with a couple of boundaries off Chatara followed by a couple of fours each off Elton Chigumbura and Chibhabha.
When Rayudu came into bat, Nair was on 22 but was on even keel with his junior partner by the time they reached the mid-30s score.
In the end, it was another lopsided contest that went India's way with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni not needing to even wear his leg guards for the second time in a row.
Earlier, Chahal scalped three wickets as India produced another professional bowling effort to dismiss a fragile Zimbabwe batting line-up for 126.
Zimbabwe lost their last seven wickets for 20 runs to be bundled out in 34.3 overs. Indian pacers Barinder Sran (2/17) and Dhawal Kulkarni (2/31) performed their duties early on before leggie Chahal (3/25) joined the party in his second ODI.
The visitors are expected to chase down the modest target with ease to take an unassailable lead in the series. India had won the opening ODI comfortably here on Saturday.
It was another chilly morning at the Harare Sports Club and Dhoni, winning the toss for the second time in succession, expectedly put the opposition in.
Sran and Kulkarni got the ball to swing from the word go.
Zimbabwe chose to open with Hamilton Masakadaza (9) and Chamu Chibhabha (21) this time but the move did not work as lack of application from the top-order left them struggling at 39/3 in 10 overs.
The experienced Vusi Sibanda gave the innings some momentum with a fighting 53 off 69 balls, but his fall led to a batting collapse.
He shared a handy 67-run stand with Sikandar Raza (16 off 41) to take his side past the 100-run mark.
Chahal triggered the collapse by removing Raza and Elton Chigumbura (0) to be on a hat-trick. Thirteen balls later, the spinner sent back Sibanda to have Zimbabwe in further trouble at 107 for six.
Sibanda was the lone warhorse for Zimbabwe as he completed his 21st ODI half century. His knock comprised six fours and a six.
It was a fresh pitch used for this game but stroke-making remained difficult.
More than the conditions, the Zimbabwe batsmen had themselves to blame as they did not learn from the mistakes made in the opening game.
Number 11 Sean Williams did not come out to bat owing to a sudden finger injury....