Zimbabwe's spinners made sure a record third-wicket partnership between Tatenda Taibu and Craig Ervine didn't go to waste, maintaining an asphyxiating grip on Canada's batsmen to secure a 175-run win in Nagpur. Taibu and Ervine's stand, which is Zimbabwe's highest for the third wicket in ODIs and their fifth largest overall, helped their team recover from a decidedly shaky start to reach 298 for 8 on a good batting wicket. While the ascendancy had swung between the two teams in the first innings Zimbabwe's slow bowlers assumed full control in the afternoon, sharing 37.1 overs and all ten wickets as Canada were bowled out in the 43rd over.
Despite needing practically a-run-a-ball from the start Canada would still have begun their batting effort with the belief that an upset was not impossible. What was needed was a positive start by their opening pair, the unlikely couple of veteran batsman John Davison and the comparatively foetal Nitish Kumar who, at 40 and 16 respectively, are the oldest and youngest players at this tournament.
Davison looked to attack Ray Price - who shared the new ball once again - almost immediately but ran straight past a flighted delivery that straightened just enough to clip the top of off stump. Things got worse for Canada four overs later when, in consecutive deliveries, Price stuck out his left hand and held onto a chipped drive to get rid of Kumar and Ashish Bagai swept straight to short backward square. Jimmy Hansra safely negotiated the hat-trick ball but the damage had been done with Canada staring into the precipice at 7 for 3.
Hansra and 19-year-old Ruvindu Gunasekara clung gamely to the crease for a while, but the required rate rose steadily as the slow bowlers strengthened their stranglehold. As the frustration rose Hansra again used his feet to Utseya but this time an arm ball rushed past the outside edge and he was easily stumped for a 41-ball 20.
Gunasekara followed in the very next over, bottom-edging an attempted late cut onto his own stumps, and when the big-hitting Rizwan Cheema mis-hit a full toss straight to short fine leg Canada were 66 for 6 and the match was over as a contest. With the pitch exhibiting increasingly extravagant turn legspinner Graeme Cremer was unleashed on the lower order, and both Tyson Gordon and Khurram Chohan were flummoxed by his subtle variations in flight and spin.
Zubin Surkari briefly held Zimbabwe at bay, gritting out a brave 26 before he fell to a leg-side stumping. Cremer wrapped up the innings an over later, ripping one through Balaji Rao's defences to claim his third wicket.
Canada had been able to put up much more of a challenge with the ball, legspinner Rao picking up career-best figures of 4 for 57 as Zimbabwe were kept under pressure on either side of Taibu and Ervine's partnership. There was a real buzz in the field when Brendan Taylor and Charles Coventry were removed within the first four overs - Taylor pinned in front of his stumps by a Khurram Chohan inswinger on the very first ball of the day - but as the shine faded and the sun baked all life from the wicket the batsmen settled in and a large total loomed.
After seeing off the new ball Taibu took two boundaries from offspinner Jimmy Hansra's first over, another brace from his second, to calm Zimbabwe's nerves. He barely dipped below a-run-a-ball thereafter, bringing up a 46-ball fifty in the 15th over and playing with increasing fluency. Ervine, who made a cautious start to his innings with 17 from his first 35 balls, eventually began to pick up the tempo too and used a variety of sweep shots against the spinners to good effect as the partnership passed 100.
It appeared Zimbabwe had assumed full control once more, but as the ball softened it began to grip the surface and Rao got the breakthrough with one that bounced a little more than Ervine was expecting, ricocheting off the shoulder of the bat and the pad and looping up for wicketkeeper Bagai to complete a good catch. Ervine had reached 85, his highest score in ODIs, but his dismissal sparked another collapse and when Taibu top-edged a sweep to be out for 98 Zimbabwe were 201 for 5.
Rao had luck on his side in nipping Greg Lamb and Sean Williams out, Lamb chopping a long-hop onto his own stumps and Williams gloving a sweep to give Bagai the chance to take a third smart catch, diving forward. Zimbabwe were precariously placed at 240 for 7 at that point and were thankful for an enterprising 41-run stand between Prosper Utseya and Graeme Cremer, which gave the score took a sheen of respectability after a stuttering start and a middle-order wobble. As it turned out, their score was more than enough against a Canadian line-up that showed precious little competency in combating an unrelenting hydra of spin.
- Brendan Taylor became the third batsman to be dismissed off the first ball of a World Cup game. Three of the dismissals have come against Zimbabwe.
- Tatenda Taibu's 98 is the first instance of a Zimbabwe batsman being dismissed in the nineties in a World Cup game and the 32nd instance overall of a batsman being dismissed in the nineties in a World Cup match.
- Taibu's 98 was his third-highest score in ODIs and his 17th fifty overall. In 14 matches since June 2010, he has scored 564 runs with five half-centuries.
- The 181-run partnership between Taibu and Craig Irvine is the highest partnership for Zimbabwe in World Cups, surpassing the 166-run stand between Grant Flower and Craig Wishart against Namibia in 2003. It is also the fifth-highest stand for Zimbabwe in ODIs overall.
- Zimbabwe's 298 is their fourth-highest total in a World Cup game. They have 18 scores over 300 in ODIs.
- Zimbabwe's 175-run win is their largest in World Cups and their fourth largest in ODIs overall. The margin of defeat is also the second largest for Canada in World Cups.