| Mahendra Singh Dhoni cuts during his unbeaten 67 in Harare on Sunday. (Reuters)
Harare: Yuvraj Singh carved a fine century of controlled aggression to help India avoid blushes and overcome a gritty challenge by Zimbabwe for a four-wicket victory in the Videocon Cup tri-series on Sunday.
Zimbabwe performed with grit to put up a healthy total of 250 and made early dents in the rival batting but their bowling proved inadequate as the Indians overhauled the target comfortably in the final round-robin match.
Yuvraj extended his good form to post his second century of the season with a composed 120 that led the Indian recovery after the side had slipped to 91 for five at one stage.
The Punjab left-hander, who had posted a hundred in a tri-series in Sri Lanka last month, also crossed the 3,000 mark when he was on 36. In all, he faced 124 balls and hit 12 fours and a six.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni proved he can bat with a calm head too as he lent support to Yuvraj with an unbeaten 67 off 63 balls and notched up the winning runs with his third six of his innings off Blessing Mahwire.
The hosts were under pressure to perform, notwithstanding the fact that it was an inconsequential match since India and New Zealand had already qualified for the final on Tuesday. The players were locked in a contract dispute with their administrators and they played with guts to prove their worth.
Skipper Tatenda Taibu led from the front with a 97-ball 71 while Charles Coventry top scored with 71 with seven fours and three sixes.
Yuvraj shared a 158-run sixth wicket stand from 140 balls with Dhoni, the best sixth wicket stand ever for India in one-day Internationals.
The easy finish provided little idea of how difficult it was for the Indians who reeled at 38 for four and then were down to 91 for 5 in the 25th over.
Some sprightly fielding and purposeful bowling from the Zimbabweans had sent Virender Sehwag (12), Sourav Ganguly (2), Rahul Dravid (6) and Mohammed Kaif (8) packing to the pavilion in no time.
Sehwag and Dravid were out bowled; Sourav was snapped up with an astonishing leap by Vusi Sibanda at point region. Super sub Venugopal Rao (27) looked to provide support to Yuvraj before the spinners flustered him to the extent that he ran himself out.
From then on, it was Yuvraj and Dhoni show. They batted with tremendous common sense and initially built up the base with singles before opening their shoulders for thunderous shots.
Earlier, Zimbabwe had produced their best with the bat in the tri-series by scoring 250 in exactly 50 overs.
Taibu was at the forefront of this revival as he put on 116 runs for the fourth wicket from 137 balls with Coventry (74 from 99 balls) for Zimbabwe’s best moment yet of the series.
Later Andy Blignaut once again weighed in with a meaty knock of 41 from 26 balls with six fours and one six.
Taibu smashed Harbhajan Singh for a straight six and then smote Jai Prakash Yadav over mid-wicket as he raced to his half century in the 25th over at the total 108 for three.
He was completely contemptuous of Sourav Ganguly when he brought himself on to attack, smashing the Indian captain for a string of fours and 15 runs in his first over.
The pair also savaged left-arm spinner Kartik and Yadav who conceded 52 and 44 runs from nine overs each.
Taibu finally departed at 166 for four when he couldn’t connect a pull off a short delivery from Yadav. His 71 took him 97 balls.
Meanwhile, according to manager Amitabh Choudhary, all seven Indian passports have been issued afresh. The three Australian passports will, however, only be ready on Monday.