Nagpur, Feb 28: Tatenda Taibu missed out on his maiden World Cup century by two runs but his superb run-a-ball knock helped Zimbabwe crush Canada by 175 runs in a Group A match here today.
Former captain Taibu added 181 runs for the third wicket with Craig Ervine to lay the foundation of Zimbabwe innings after batting first in the match touted as the 'Battle of Minnows' at the Vidarbha Cricket Association ground at Jamtha.
Zimbabwe then shot out Canada for just 123 in 42.1 overs with left-arm spinner Raymond Price taking three wickets for just 16 runs from his eight overs. Another leg-spinner Graeme Cremer also returned with figures of 3/31 as Canada failed to negotiate Zimbabwe slow bowlers.
Price sent back three top-order Canadian batsmen with less than 10 runs on the board. Victory was a mere formality for Zimbabwe from there on. Cremer polished off the tail as Zimbabwe scored an easy win.
Canadian batsmen never showed any intent of trying to make a match out of it and it was all over within 10 overs of their run chase. Their spineless display seemingly gave justification for ICC to curtail the number of teams to 10 in the nest edition of 50-over World Cup.
Price first dismissed John Davison (0) who was bowled while trying to mindlessly come down the track even before getting set. 16-year-old Nitish Kumar (1), who became the youngest player to make his World Cup debut, was caught by Price off his own bowling.
Nitish's discomfort was a proof enough that he is far from being ready for this level. Skipper Ashish Bagai (0) tried to play a sweep shot from the very first delivery he faced and perished.
Zimbabweans have not had such an easy ODI win in recent times and will surely boost their confidence in the coming World Cup matches.
Earlier, Taibu found the gaps with aplomb during his knock of 98 of 99 balls from which he hit nine fours, Ervine (85 off 81 balls) was happy playing the second fiddle.
Once Ervine reached his personal milestone, he suddenly accelerated and matched his senior partner stroke for stroke after they were reduced to seven for two by the fourth over with both openers Brendan Taylor (0) and Charles Coventry (4) back in the hut.
But that was all Canada bowlers could manage for the next 27.5 overs as the Zimbabwean duo hardly looked in any kind of discomfort.
For Canada, former Tamil Nadu spinner Balaji Rao was the pick of the bowlers grabbing 4 for 57. Harvir Baidwan and Khurram Chohan scalped two wickets apiece. MORE PTI KHS PDS Veteran leggie Balaji used all his years of experience in Ranji Trophy to ensure that Zimbabwe did not race away to a total that would be unattainable.
Taibu started playing his strokes from the onset. Not only did he punish the pacers, he was at ease against the Canadian spinners using his feet to good effect. Ervine, on the other hand, ran quick singles and gave the bulk of the strike to Taibu on a placid Jamtha strip.
While Taibu completed his half century off 45 deliveries with eight hits, Ervine took 55 deliveries to complete his 50 with four boundaries and a six.
However, once the duo completed their 50s, there seemed to be a reversal of roles. Suddenly it was Taibu who dropped the anchor and was happy taking singles while Ervine gave the slower bowlers some treatment. He hit two huge sixes -- one over mid-wicket and the other straight over long-on boundary.
It was Balaji who put the brakes on Zimbabwe innings.
Although he bowled a few long hops but he was not afraid of giving the ball air. He first got Ervine a bat-pad catch which was smartly taken by Bagai.
Taibu, who suddenly went quiet once he was in his 90s, was deceived by the flight and mistimed a sweep shot which was taken by Davison at mid-wicket.
Balaji then got Sean Williams with another bat-pad catch to Bagai while Greg Lamb went for a cut shot with very little room provided. This was former India A spinner's best figures in ODIs.
Suddenly from 188 for two, Zimbabwe slumped to 240 for seven losing five wickets for 52 runs. But Prosper Utseya (22 off 29 balls) and Graeme Cremer (26 off 23 balls) added 41 useful runs for the eighth wicket to take the total near 300. PTI