Harare: Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh shared five wickets as they spun India to a comprehensive victory over Zimbabwe in Friday's first Twenty20 international at Harare Sports Club on Friday.
After India had posted a formidable 178 for five in their 20 overs, Patel took 3 for 17 on his Twenty20 international debut and Harbhajan returned 2 for 29 as Zimbabwe were restricted to 124 for seven.
To chasing 179, Zimbabwe got off to an excellent start thanks to their openers Chamu Chibhabha and Hamilton Masakadza. They put on 55 for the first wicket, when Chibhabha was dismissed in the ninth over.
From there,ZiImbabwe kept losing one wicket after the other and found themselves in deep trouble as they lost half their side with just 82 on the board in the 14th over. Masakadza, Charles Coventary, Elton Chigumbura and Craig Ervine were dismissed were already back in the hut and needed a miracle to win from there.
Hard-hitting batsman Sikandar Raza was also dismissed after that. From there, Zimbabwe were just about looking to play out their 20 overs with minimum damage. But Mohit Sharma got rid of Graeme Cremer for nine, but Zimbabwe somehow managed to go past the 100-run mark but it was never going to be enough to trouble India.
Earlier, Robin Uthappa top-scored with an unbeaten 39 as India posted 178 for five.
Uthappa scored just 44 runs in three innings during the recently concluded one-day series, which India swept 3-0, but returned to form on Friday to help India maintain control throughout their innings.
The tourists made a bright start after winning the toss and opting to bat, with captain Ajinkya Rahane putting on 64 for the first wicket with Murali Vijay inside seven overs.
Vijay was the first batsman dismissed when he was run out for 34, before Rahane was caught at backward point for 33 off the bowling of leg spinner Graeme Cremer.
Uthappa's measured 35-ball knock set India up for a big finish, but they were kept in check by an excellent spell from fast bowler Chris Mpofu, who finished with 3 for 33 on his return to the Zimbabwe side.
The second and final match in the series takes place at the same venue on Sunday.
India - 178 for 5 (Uthappa 39*, Mpofu 3-33)
Zimbabwe- 124 for 7 (Masakadza 28, Axar 3-17)
Result - India won by 54 runs
MOM - Axar Patel (India)