An unbeaten century on debut from KL Rahul and a fifty from Ambati Rayudu after Jasprit Bumrah’s four-for gave India a winning start in the three-match series against Zimbabwe at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday (June 11). The hosts struggled as a batting unit, failed to forge partnerships and paid the the price for it as India ensured they never let their opposition into the game. The modest chase was completed in 42.3 overs as India recorded a nine-wicket win in a rather one-sided affair. In Karun Nair and KL Rahul, India fielded two debutant openers for the first time since 1976. On what turned out to be a bit of a two-paced wicket, Nair’s indecisiveness cost him his wicket as his attempted pull was way off the mark. The ball travelled off the toe-end of the bat and was pouched by Sikandar Raza off Tendai Chatara. The wicket came early but turned out to be the only one of the innings as Rayudu and Rahul built an impregnable stand. The low total gave the batsmen the opportunity to take their time and settle in before laying the platform for a successful chase. They looked a little out-of-sorts against the pace generated by Chatara and Taurai Muzarabani early on, but that was a brief phase that they successfully got over to march on. Graeme Cremer tried as many as seven bowlers, including himself, but there was no avenue for a much-needed breakthrough. Two measured half-centuries followed, blunting the hosts’ efforts, even as the fans in the stands, swelling in number since the hosts began to bowl, cheered loudly. With two runs to get, Rahul tonked the first six of the match, over long on, to complete his century and finish off the chase in style. Earlier, on a chilly morning, MS Dhoni had invited the hosts to bat first, giving his bowlers the first chance to test and understand the behaviour of the kookaburra ball. Barinder Sran, the left-arm pacer, troubled the Zimbabwean openers with deliveries that swung back in sharply and was unfortunate not to see Chamu Chibhabha’s back off his first delivery as umpire Russell Tiffin turned down his appeal. Five balls later, Sran accounted for Peter Moor’s wicket in his first over. The 25-year-old opener was slow to react to a full ball that nipped in and struck him on the pads in line. On the eve of the fixture, Makhaya Ntini, the interim coach of the side, had indicated that his boys had watched India’s non-regular players in the Indian Premier League and were prepared for them, but the turn of events on the match day suggested otherwise. A fighting 38-run stand between Raza and Elton Chigumbura helped Zimbabwe crawl past the 100-run mark but the brittle lower-order couldn’t quite consolidate and tee off towards the end of the essay. Yuzvendra Chahal, the leg-spinning debutant, bowled excellently through the middle and the later stages of the game. His reward – a maiden ODI wicket in his final over. Brief Scores: Zimbabwe 168 in 49.5 overs (Elton Chigumbura 41; Jasprit Bumrah 4-28, Barinder Sran 2-42, Dhawal Kulkarni 2-42) lost to India 173/1 in 42.3 overs (Lokesh Rahul 100*, Ambati Rayudu 62*) by 9 wickets.