Harare: Zimbabwe beat India by 4 wickets a last-ball thriller of the first contest of the three-match T20I series.
India captain MS Dhoni won the toss and invited the hosts to bat. Zimbabwe got off to a flying start and scored a competitive 170 runs on the scoreboard, thanks to characteristic innings by 54 runs off just 26 balls. Yet it again, it was ever-improving Jasprit Bumrah who scalped two wickets for 24 runs and was — yet again — the pick of the bowlers.
In the pursuit of 170, Donald Tiripano spectacularly dismantled KL Rahul’s defence off the very first ball to put India in a spot of bother. Despite the early hiccups, the in-form Ambati Rayudu danced down the track and smacked two boundaries in the same over.
However, while keep up with the required run-rate, Rayudu played a rash shot and gave away his wicket. Mandeep Singh, on the other hand, played swashbuckling boundaries on his debut but soon joined Rahul and Rayudu in the dug-out to reduce India to 53 for after 7.4 overs.
Kedhar, Jadhav, who scored an unbeaten hundred in his international innings, kept the scoreboard ticking but coupling singles with a couple of boundaries. However, his fiery innings was cut short by pacer Taurai Muzarabani.
The onus was then on the veteran Dhoni and star batsman Manish Pandey to score 80 runs off 46 balls. Pandet didn’t waste any timed and milked Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer for two massive sixes in the 14th over. Both batsmen turned the tide towards India and kept plundered a boundary per over to bring down the equation to 29 from 3 overs.
Nonetheless, the require run-rate of just under 10 kept Zimbabwe in the contest. As the pressure kept mounting on India, Pandey holed out Tiripano’s slower ball to Muzarabani at deep extra cover. India, now, needed 28 off 16, with India’s best finisher Dhoni and clean-striker Akshar Patel at the crease.
Akshar rose up to the occasion and got right under the ball to send the ball soaring over the long-on boundary line to ruin what could have been only a 2-run over; 21 needed off 2 overs. Indeed, it could have been anyone’s game, but Akshar went on rampage and bludgeoned another six down town.
India looked firm favourites. Dhoni took a run off the first ball of the ultimate over. He strolled down to Akshar at the striker’s end, as if he wanted his young gun to calm his nerves. But, Askhar failed at crucial juncture and spanked straight into the hands of long-off.
However, good news for India was that the Captain Cool managed to reach the other end before the fielder comfortably pouched the catch. India needed 7 off 4. But, Neville Madviza bowled right in the block-hole to restrict Dhoni for only a run.
As Rishi Dhawan shuffled to late-cut past the keeper, Madziva smartly bowled in the block hole to produce a dot ball. Dhawan took a single and gave strike to the man-with-a-Midas-touch Dhoni. India needed 4 off the last over. But fortune didn’t favour him as he managed to take only a single of the last ball.
The roaring Zimbabwe crowd was on its feet, as they witnessed their home team emerging triumphant in one of the most historic clashes.
Earlier, A late surge led by Elton Chigumbura, who struck a quick-fire half-century, drove Zimbabwe to a competitive 170/6.
After another middle-order implosion that saw them being reduced to 115/5 in 16 overs, Chigumbura took over the charge and played an entertaining innings that lifted the gloom which had settled over the hosts after a forgettable ODI series which they lost 0-3.
He came in to bat at No.7 and struck seven sixes and a four in his unbeaten 26-ball 54 as Zimbabwe collected 55 runs from the last four overs
Zimbabwe - 170 for 6 (Chigumbura 54*, Waller 30, Bumrah 2-24)
India - 168 for 6 (Pandey 48, Mandeep 31, Muzarabani 2-31, Chibhabha 2-13)
Result - Zimbabwe won by 2 runs