Abhishek Sharma’s Century Powers India to Crushing 100-Run Win Over Zimbabwe

Young Abhishek Sharma announced his arrival on the big stage with a breathtaking 46-ball century as India pummelled Zimbabwe by a whopping 100 runs in the second T20I to restore parity in a resounding fashion here Sunday. It was India’s biggest margin of victory in terms of runs against Zimbabwe in T20Is. The young Indian side didn’t carry the baggage of a shock-13-run defeat in the series-opener as left-handed opener Abhishek blended power with grace for a scintillating knock that propelled India to a massive 234 for two on a track where batting wasn’t exactly easy.

The ask was already stiff and Indian bowlers got breakthroughs at regular intervals to bowl out Zimbabwe for 134 in 18.4 overs to set the record straight. Pacers Mukesh Kumar (three for 37) and Avesh Khan (three for 15) removed the top-order inside the PowerPlay to kill the contest which became a formality after that.

The day certainly belonged to Abhishek, who mixed grace and power in equal measure in an innings, embellished with eight sixes and seven fours. It made the stylish Ruturaj Gaikwad (77 not out off 47 balls) look pale in comparison during their 137-run stand for the second wicket.

His innings would also increase the headache for skipper Shubman Gill and stand-in coach V. V. S Laxman, who would need to take a tough call when Yashasvi Jaiswal would be available from the third game. Having endured the disappointment of a four-ball duck on debut, Abhishek never looked under pressure on a track which his senior partner and current Chennai Super Kings partner Gaikwad found “difficult to feel set”.

The hallmark of his innings was fearlessness as he took calculated risks which paid off and allowed Gaikwad at the other end to get into the groove after playing and missing for the better part of his innings. Abhishek got a reprieve on 27 when Wellington Masakadza dropped a regulation catch off Luke Jongwe. He never looked back after that. His fifty came off another pulled six behind square off medium pacer Dion Myers, whose 28-run over actually opened the floodgates during the back-10 for the visiting side.

The shot that was most pleasing to the eye was his inside out six off rival skipper Sikandar Raza, lofting his off-break with the turn over extra-cover boundary. If that was elegance personified, the manner in which he muscled left-arm spinner Masakadza into the orbit with back-to-back sixes was a testimony to his brute power. He raised his milestone hundred when he guided a wayward full-toss on leg-stump behind the square for a maximum before being dismissed off the very next delivery.

He catapults India from 36/1 in 6 overs to 147/2 in 14 overs. Zimbabwe’s poor fielding effort also hurt it as it also dropped Gaikwad’s catch, who took off from where Abhishek had left. He hit 87 runs off 36 balls for the third wicket with Rinku Singh (48 not out off 22 balls). The total was India’s highest against Zimbabwe in T20 Internationals, surpassing previous best of 186, a fitting comeback after an inexplicable batting collapse in the opening game.

The Indian pacers despite the usage of long handle by No. 3 Bennett (26 off 9 balls) were on target as Mukesh cleaned up two batters with slightly back of the length off-cutters. Once Ravi Bishnoi (2/11 in 4 overs) and Washington Sundar (1/28 in 4 overs) came into operation, the Zimbabwe batters weren’t able to hit them. The difference certainly was extra bounce generated by off-spinner Washington and the pace at which Bishnoi consistently bowled his googlies.

With the series levelled at 1-1, the contest remains open, with three more games, on July 10, 13 and 14.

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