Known for his knack to swing the ball both ways, Ajit Agarkar was India’s answer for a fast-bowling all-rounder in the first decade of the new millennium. All-rounder, for he was more than capable with the bat in hand. No player who is purely a bowler would score a 21 ball half-century, as Agarkar did against Zimbabwe in an ODI on this day in 2000.
During the winter of 2000, a formidable Zimbabwean unit visited India for a five-match ODI series. Back in the day, Zimbabwe were no pushovers, they were gritty and were capable of taking down top sides. However, ahead of the fifth and the last ODI of the series, the scoreline read 3-1 in India’s favour.
Asked to bat first, Team India soon found itself in a spot of bother with the score reading 114 for five and all the big guns – Tendulkar 27, Dravid 6, and Sehwag 19 – back in the hut. Hemang Badani fought his way through a gritty 77 as he scripted a splendid 102-run stand with Reetinder Sodhi, who got 53 from 67. In the 44th over, Badani was undone by Murphy, and when the scoreboard read 216 for six, 250 appeared realistic but 300 was beyond imagination.
A whirlwind knock
With not much batting to follow after the pair, Agarkar and Sodhi occupied the crease. Agarkar looked positive and fearless right from the outset as he launched a counterattack alongside Sodhi. Agarkar went berserk as India raced to 269 for six in 48 overs, while his score read 42 off just 18. With the penultimate over being bowled by one of the finest bowlers of Zimbabwe, Heath Streak, the duo managed to score 11 runs as Agarkar moved to 47 off 20 deliveries: one hit away from registering the fastest half-century by an Indian in ODIs.
Watch the innings here:
He reached the milestone with a four as he notched it up in 21 balls, but that was not the end. The last two deliveries of the innings were dispatched out of the park as well, as India added 21 runs in the final over, and finished at a gigantic 301 for six. Agarkar finished at an unbeaten 67 from just 25, whereas the partnership between Agarkar and Sodhi was worth 85 from only 39. After his rampage with the bat, he was effective with the ball too, as he bagged three wickets for 26 runs in 8.4 overs. India went on to win the game by 39 runs to close out the ODI series 4-1.