Harare: Virat Kohli marked his first full series as captain of India with a stroke-filled century that helped secure a facile six-wicket win over Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club on Wednesday. In reaching three figures for the 15th time in ODIs, in his 109th match, Kohli drew level with Virender Sehwag (251 ODIs) and Mohammad Yousuf (288 ODIs). He now sits at 17th place in the all-time list of century-makers in ODI cricket.
Kohli was his usual self during his 115 off 108 balls, never breaking into reckless stroke play and anchoring the innings without taking any risks. That he maintained a very health strike-rate and finished at better than run-a-ball was further testament to his unflappable demeanour. With a debutant in Ambati Rayudu, Kohli dominated a third-wicket stand of 159.
His century fetched Kohli the Man-of-the-Match award for the 15th time in ODIs (12 of his centuries have resulted in match awards). "I'm very happy to get the first win in the series. I am very pleased with the way we played," said Kohli after India chased 229 to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
"We needed to play percentage cricket. I thought the ball did a lot in the morning and our bowlers did very well. It was still seaming around when we batted, it was a challenge facing their skiddy bowlers. The toss plays a major role here in Harare, we have learnt from our past experience over here. I am happy for Rayudu, he has waited for a long time to play for India and has grabbed his opportunity well here."
Kohli averages 40.46 in 2013 with a tally of 607 runs in 18 innings, including two centuries and two fifties. With four ODIs to go in this series and seven lined up against Australia later this year, Kohli has a good chance of recording another 1000-run season.
The touring India squad contains five others apart from Kohli who were part of a similarly second-string side to tour Zimbabwe in 2010. Then, India had Rohit Sharma who began a triangular also featuring Sri Lanka with a century, but the team ended up on the losing side in the opener. Further defeats to Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe meant the Suresh Raina-led side was unable to make the final.
On this tour, India have made a promising start against a Zimbabwe side lacking firepower with the ball. And they have Kohli to thank in large for that.