Harare: Playing his first ODI in over two years, legspinner Amit Mishra made a strong impact at the Harare Sports Club with figures of 3 for 43 from his ten overs to help keep hosts Zimbabwe to a total of 228. Playing as a specialist spinner alongside allrounder Ravindra Jadeja, the 30-year-old Mishra took the most wickets for his team and played a key role in keeping run-scoring in check during the middle overs.
Mishra was given the ball for the 18th over and struck in his third, producing India's first breakthrough as Vusi Sibanda misread a googly. Mishra would go on to use the delivery frequently during his outing, and the Zimbabwe batsmen found it tough to negotiate. In the 34th over, Hamilton Masakadza missed a slog at a googly and was bowled. Three balls later, the well set Sikandar Raza (82) was also bowled by a googly. In his ten overs, Mishra conceded three fours and six; only his last over went for 13 to slightly expand his figures.
It was Mishra's fourth instance of taking at least three wickets in an innings. The previous occasions were 3 for 40 against Sri Lanka in Dhaka in 2010; 4 for 31 against West Indies at Port of Spain in 2011; and 3 for 28 against the same team at North Sound in 2011. Mishra's tally of wickets after 16 ODIs is 22 at an average of 28.09.
Mishra's inclusion in the current ODI squad in Zimbabwe to play five ODIs came on the back of a strong IPL 6 season for Sunrisers Hyderabad. He was his team's highest wicket-taker and seventh across the league with 21 from 17 matches at an average of 18.76 and economy rate of 6.35. The highlight of Mishra's 2013 season was taking a hat-trick against Pune Warriors to conjure a narrow win for Hyderabad; made him the first bowler in the IPL to perform the feat three times (his previous hat-tricks came in 2008, when he was playing for Daredevils, and 2011, with Deccan Chargers).
For an experienced campaigner who made his ODI debut in April 2003, Mishra's ODI appearances have been infrequent. He was dropped after playing three ODIs in 2003 and not recalled to the 50-over side until 2009. Two ODIs that year were followed by five in 2010. Between June 2010 and June 11 Mishra did not play an ODI for India; after being added to a weakened side to tour the West Indies following India's 2011 World Cup victory, Mishra played all five ODIs on tour. He topped the wickets tally with 11 at 18.09, but a poor Test outing in England later that summer saw Mishra discarded as R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha emerged as viable wicket-takers at Test level. In his last Test appearance, at The Oval in 2011, Mishra went wicketless for 38 overs.
Now, with four more ODIs to stake his claim and press for further inclusion in India's ODI side, Mishra has a big opportunity to impress the selectors. His spinning team-mate, Jadeja, has improved in leaps and bounds over the six months and so Mishra will know what it takes to stay afloat.