On a sluggish wicket, India produced another sluggish batting performance for the most part of the innings, before Kedar Jadhav found his boundary-hitting groove in some style to score a maiden century and with it take his team to 276/5 in the 3rd ODI at the Harare Sports Club.
Zimbabwe faltered in the chase, after looking for a while like they might make a game of it, with India eventually cruising to a 83-run victory to complete a series whitewash.
Chasing 277 was never going to be easy, and with only Chamu Chibhabha (82, 109b, 7x4) cross the half-century mark, it proved to be near impossible for Zimbabwe in the end, with Elton Chigumbura, again, strangely insisting on batting second after winning the toss, despite losing the first two matches in a similar manner.
Hamilton Masakadza opened the innings with Chibhabha, and after a 24-ball stay in which he scored just seven runs – largely due to some excellent bowling from Bhuvneshwar Kumar (6-1-12-0) -- Mohit Sharma (7-0-33-2) trapped the experienced right-hander in front.
Chibhabha and Regis Chakabva tried to bring Zimbabwe back on course with a 70-run partnership, but with the run rate hovering below four, a wicket here or there and you knew the home team would be right behind the eight ball again.
Chakabva fell after a laboured 27 (43b, 3x4) to Axar Patel (6.4-0-39-2), with Chigumbura also not able to hang around long enough as he became the first ever ODI victim of part-timer Murali Vijay, who trapped the Zimbabwe captain in front with a ball that just skidded on.
Chibhabha was the only constant for the home team, and the right-hander again tried to keep his team in the game, putting on 53 runs in quick time with Richmond Mutmbami (22, 24b, 3x4).
However, then came the collapse as Zimbabwe went from 160/4 in 36.1 overs to 176/9 in 39.1 overs – with Stuart Binny (10-1-55-3) and Harbhajan Singh (10-0-35-2), who picked two wickets in two balls, making merry -- before folding for 193 in 42.4 overs.
Earlier, Ajinkya Rahane called heads for the third straight time at the toss and the coin came down tails for the third time in a row, with Zimbabwe captain Chigumbura electing to field yet again.
The disappointment on Rahane's face at having to bat first for the third time in this three-match ODI series was plain to see and the India skipper could not apparently get over that disappointment as he fell early, along with his opening partner Murali Vijay (13, 21b, 2x4) – both picked up by Neville Madziva.
Robin Uthappa (31, 44b, 3x4), promoted to No.3 after Ambati Rayudu was ruled out of the tour, could not provide the inspiration either, losing his wicket just when he was looking primed for a big score, and neither could Manoj Tiwary, who played a painful-to-watch 10 from 33 balls.
That meant a repair job was necessary with India teetering on 82/4 in the 22nd over, and Jadhav (105 n.o., 87b, 12x4, 1x6) and Manish Pandey (71, 86b, 4x4, 1x6), on his debut, did just that, putting on 144 runs for the fifth wicket to leave Zimbabwe frustrated again.
The home team had India on the mat in the first ODI as well, at 87/5, before a 160-run partnership from Rayudu and Stuart Binny gave the visitors a score they could defend.
This looks like being the case here as well, as Pandey and Jadhav, who lived charmed lives at times, went about building a score that their bowlers should defend.
Pandey was the more impressive of the two batsmen, looking like he has been playing ODI cricket for a while now, which is more than can be said of some of the batsmen that went ahead of him, rotating the strike and ensuring India would not collapse like a house of cards.
Jadhav was dropped on 41 by Chigumbura, and the right-hander made Zimbabwe pay for that miss, by jumping from 41 to 105 in double quick time.
Pandey fell in the 47th over, holing out in the deep off the bowling of Chamu Chibhabha, but there was no stopping Jadhav, who stormed to his debut hundred with a brilliant six.
Thanks to Jadhav, India scored 106 runs in the final ten overs, which could prove to be the difference between victory and defeat.