Zimbabwe – 228 for 7 (S.R. Butt 82, E. Chigumbura 43*, V. Sibanda Mishra 3-43)
India – 230 for 4 (V. Kohli 115, A.T. Rayudu 63*, P. Utseya 2-34)
India won by six wickets.
A brilliant and exotic knock of 115 from Virat Kohli steered India to a comfortable six wicket win in the first of five Celkon Cup One-Day International (ODI) matches at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday.
India won the toss, and had no hesitation in inviting the hosts to bat on a pitch that had just enough early morning assistance for the seamers.
Even so, the new opening combination of Vusimuzi Sibanda and Sikanda Raza Butt did a sound job, as they saw off the threat of the new ball, adding 72 for the first wicket before Sibanda failed to pick the googly from leg spinner Amit Mishra, and was adjudged to be out, leg before wicket for 34 off 72 balls.
Zimbabwe then promoted Sean Williams ahead of Hamilton Masakadza, but the plan did not come off as the left-handed Williams was bowled by part-timer Suresh Raina for just 15 runs.
Hamilton Masakadza and Brendan Taylor went for 11 and 12 respectively, and when Malcolm Waller departed for a disappointing two, Zimbabwe were tottering at 166 runs for five wickets.
But Sikanda Raza Butt was the glue that kept the innings together, as he top-scored with a well-compiled and career-best 88 of 112 balls, which included five fours and two sixes, before trying to heave Mishra over the leg side but ended up being bowled in the process.
Elton Chigumbura then gave everybody a timely reminder of why English county Northamptonshire asked him to play for them for a season, as the former captain struck a powerful unbeaten 43 off just 32 balls, with six fours and a six delightfully-flicked over square leg.
But Zimbabwe fell short of a competitive total, as they finished their innings on 228 for six.
Leg-spinner Amit Mishra was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with figures of three for 43 from his quota of 10 overs.
Zimbabwe then enjoyed relatively early success when Shikhar Dhawan top edged an attempted hook shot to Malcolm Waller who took a good catch, running in from the fine leg boundary.
And when Rohit Sharma edged Elton Chigumbura through to Brendan Taylor for 20 off 40 balls, India had lost their second wicket with just 57 runs on the board.
But the small Wednesday crowd were then treated to some of the best batting witnessed at Harare sports club as Kohli and Ambati Rayudu helped India recover from what could have been a tricky situation by adding a match-winning partnership of 159 off 174 balls for the third wicket, before Kohli held out to Vusimuzi Sibanda on the long on boundary for 115 of just 108 balls, which included 13 fours and a six in an innings which was a combination of timing and placement.
This was the stand in skipper's 15th century in one day international cricket, and if one considers that he is only 24 years old, one cannot help but feel that the name Virat Kohli will go down in the record books alongside the many previous greats who have represented India.
Tendai Chatara continued to impress with the new ball, and was unlucky not to have got a wicket, as he on more than one occasion beat both the opening batsmen and showed good control with the new ball, ending with nought for 30 from nine overs.
Prosper Utseya was the pick of the Zimbabwe bowlers, finishing with two wickets for 34 runs from his 10 overs.
Zimbabwe will be happy with the performances by Raza Butt, Chigumbura and Utseya, but in the end Kohli and Rayudu, who finished unbeaten on 63, ensured a comfortable win for the world champions, as they got home in 44.5 overs.
The two teams meet in the second ODI match at the same venue on Friday.