Dashing all-rounder Yuvraj Singh pulled India out of a tight corner in the concluding tri-series league match against Zimbabwe on Sunday.
His aggressive 120, after the team was reeling 36 for 4 and 91 for 5, ensured a four-wicket victory.
It was Yuvraj's second century of the season, having hit one against the West Indies in the tri-series in Sri Lanka. In the process, the Punjab left-hander also completed 3,000 runs in ODIs when he was on 36. He faced 124 balls and hit 12 fours and a six.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni provided him good support, scoring an unbeaten 67 off 63 balls, before finishing off the match with his third six of his innings.
Earlier, the hosts too got off to a bad start, but recovered through a 97-ball 71 from skipper Tatenda Taibu and a 99-ball 74 from Charles Coventry to set India a challenging target.
Ajit Agarkar was India's most successful bowler, bagging three wickets for 34 runs from 10 overs.
Having chased down a target of 279 against New Zealand on Friday, India elected to field, to test its batting one more time before going in to the tri-series final.
Uttar Pradesh left-arm seamer Rudra Pratap Singh made his ODI debut for India, as the visitors opted to rest strike bowlers Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra.
Though the 19-year-old pacer could not extract as much swing and pace as Nehra and Pathan, he bowled just short of good length and angled the ball away from the right-hand batsmen. However, he snapped up the first wicket with a delivery that swung in to claim opener Vusi Sibanda.
Pitching on middle and leg, the ball straightened instead of angling away and hit Sibanda's pads, as the batsman tried to defend on the front foot. Umpire Russell Tiffin deemed that the ball would go on to hit the stumps. (4-1).
In his next over Singh had Hamilton Masakadza caught and bowled. The batsman was late on the shot; the ball brushed off the face of the bat after hitting the pad and popped up. Singh completed the catch to claim his second one-day international wicket. (4-2).
While Singh was mixing up his deliveries well and doing the damage, Ajit Agarkar tied the batsmen up at the other end. In his first spell of six overs, Agarkar bowled three maidens and conceded only six runs.
Brendan Taylor tried to take the attack to the Indian pacers. He hit Singh for three fours and then took J P Yadav to task. The Railways man was hit for two boundaries in one over as Taylor and captain Tatenda Taibu tried to resurrect the innings.
Taylor was out to a brilliant piece of fielding from Yuvraj Singh. The batsman cut the ball to the left-hand side of Yuvraj at backward point. Yuvraj dived for the ball, grabbed it with one hand and shot down the stumps before Taylor could return to the crease. (50-3)
Taylor, who scored 26 from 41 balls, departed after a vital partnership of 46 with Taibu. Though the runs didn't account for much, the pair stemmed the collapse and gave the other batsmen enough confidence to stage a fight.
Taibu led the attack from there on, plundering India's second line of attack. He welcomed Harbhajan Singh with a six straight over the bowler's head and then dispatched Yadav over mid-wicket boundary.
Sourav Ganguly's second delivery was a no-ball, and Taibu promptly sent the short ball rolling past the mid-wicket fence. Two balls later he carted a straight drive for four off Ganguly, as the Indian captain went for 15 runs in his first over.
Yadav and Harbhajan Singh had gone for eight each in their opening overs.
From there on, Zimbabwe turned the tide. Taibu and Charles Coventry built a solid stand of 116 runs in 22.3 overs. The Indian spinners also looked ordinary. Harbhajan Singh bowled flat and Murali Karthik, playing his first match in the tri-series, was easily milked on the leg-side by the batsmen.
Taibu's wicket was only a minor hiccup for the hosts as they motored away, finding and clearing boundaries at will.
The Zimbabwe captain was bowled by Yadav on 71 (97 b, 5x4, 2.6), as he missed the ball while going for another extravagant swing. (166-4).
Coventry and all-rounder Andy Blignaut then made merry in the middle, taking Zimbabwe past 200 in the 42nd over. The right-hander was particularly in a punishing mood as he thwarted the Indian bowlers.
After a good look at the bowler, Coventry took apart Karthik's bowling. He hit two fours and two sixes off the left-arm spinner.
The batsman was able to rattle the Indians with good cricketing shots. He kept the pressure on while wielding a straight bat. Of his 75 runs, 48 came down the conventional `V'.
Agarkar and Singh's return wasn't able to dampen the batsmen's party in the middle either. The Mumbai bowler, who had stuck to a tight line and length in the first spell, conceded 26 runs in his next three overs.
India's ground fielding lacked any energy and Ganguly was running out of bowling options.
Coventry and Blignaut's partnership of 61 runs from just above eight overs hurt India the most, as they were able to take Zimbabwe from a mere competitive score to a formidable one.
Its importance was highlighted by the fact that Zimbabwe were able to score only 23 runs in the last five overs after Coventry and Blignaut departed in successive overs.
Coventry was caught by Yadav off Agarkar (227-5) and Blignaut was stumped by Dhoni when he came down the track to Harbhajan (232-6).
Zimbabwe folded quickly after that. Agarkar first helped in the run-out of Williams and then got two wickets in the last over as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 250 in 50 overs.
Karthik, who went for 52 runs in his nine overs, got a wicket off the last ball of his spell when he had Gavin Ewing trapped leg before wicket in the penultimate over of the innings.
Agarkar bowled Prosper Utseya in with a reverse swinging yorker and dismissed Blessing Mahwire on the last ball. The medium-fast bowler, with three wickets, was the most successful bowler for India.
If India started out feeling sheepish about letting Zimbabwe amass 250 runs, they sensed genuine trouble only 30 minutes into the innings.
Blessing Mahwire dealt the first blow with the wicket of Virender Sehwag. The batsman tried to drive a delivery outside the off-stump with his feet glued to the ground, and chopped the ball on to the stumps. (15-1).
His opening partner Sourav Ganguly, who is yet to emerge from a slump in form, returned to the dressing room in the sixth over. The India captain tried to hit his way through a packed off-side field, only cutting the ball to the fielder at backward point.
The delivery from Anthony Ireland was short and wide, and Ganguly slashed hard, but Visu Sibanada dived to his right to latch on to the ball. (23-2).
Rahul Dravid survived a scare on one as a great effort from Prosper Utseya came unstuck. He pulled the ball over mid-wicket; Utseya charged in and plunged forward but missed holding on by a couple of inches.
But the India vice-captain didn't last long to enjoy his luck. Like Sehwag, he too cut the ball back on his stumps off Mahwire. (34-3).
Following on his heels was the man of the match from the India - New Zealand game, Mohammed Kaif. The batsman played across to delivery angled into him and was trapped leg before wicket off Blignaut. (36-4)
India had limped on to 38 for four in ten overs.
Yuvraj Singh and Venugopal Rao then put together a partnership of 55 runs for the fifth wicket to steady the Indian ship. The two kept their cool and toiled hard for runs. But while going for the quick singles, they were caught in a mix-up that led to the latter's dismissal.
Yuvraj turned the ball to short mid-wicket and called for a run. Rao, backing up, was almost half way down the pitch when the left-hander changed his mind. Zimbabwe's Super sub, Keith Dabengwa, was quick to charge in and have a shy at the stumps. (91-5).
Mahendra Singh Dhoni then joined hands with Yuvraj for a decisive phase of the innings. For once the explosive wicket-keeper-batsman saw that discretion was better part of bravery and helped Yuvraj and India build a solid base for the subsequent onslaught.
Once he completed his half-century, Yuvraj stepped up a gear. He was particularly severe against the experienced Andy Blignaut, punishing him for 32 runs in 26 balls, which included five boundaries.
The left-hander is comfortable playing square on both sides of the wicket and the Zimbabweans suffered feeding him to his strengths. Yuvraj had no problem, shifting aside and picking up the bowlers on the leg-side.
Before the hosts could stem the flow of runs, Yuvraj and Dhoni had taken the game away from them. They also missed a opportunity to dismiss Dhoni, when Taibu fumbled a stumping chance when the batsman was on 22.
With India needing 68 runs off the last 10 overs the batsmen further stepped up the pace.
Yuvraj unleashed a flurry of boundaries, starting with a savage pull off Ireland to a short and wide delivery. In the 41st over, India collected up 10 runs to make a dash at the target. He cut Blignaut through point and then picked up a delivery angling in to fine leg.
The next four overs brought 38 runs and India were within stomping distance of victory.
At the other end, Dhoni ran well between the wickets and hit two big sixes to sink Zimbabwe's chances.
With Yuvraj on 99, Dhoni survived a close run-out chance.
The left-hander drove down long-on for a single to complete his fourth ODI century. It was Yurvaj's second hundred in as many series. He hit a hundred against West Indies in the tri-series in Sri Lanka, again when India were pushed back to the wall.
India were just two short of victory when Yuvraj fell meekly to Blignaut. He tried to turn away a delivery angled in to the leg-side, but the ball popped off the edge to Dabengwa at point. (249-6)
Yuvraj's big effort of 120 in the middle-order was special because of its timing and for the way he paced it. He hit 12 fours and a six, but was also ready to work for the runs, as his 45 singles and nine twos proved.
Dhoni then finished off the game with his third six of the match over long-on.
The right-hander played a sparkling innings of 67 from 63 balls to cruise India home.