Zimbabwe beat India by 10 runs in the 2nd and final T20 match of the series at the Harare Sports Club on Sunday. The hosts avoided a clean sweep as they squared the T20 series 1-1.
India had to chase a total of 146 runs in their alotted 20 overs. The visitors lost their skipper Ajinkya Rahane in the very first over of their innings. Murali Vijay and Robin Uthappa added 53 runs from just 34 balls. Uthappa did the bulk of the scoring in that partnership.
Vijay was bowled by Graeme Cremer in the seventh over and thereby the spinner broke the dangerous-looking partnership. The visitors lost three more wickets in a span of just 12 runs. Manish Pandey, Uthappa and Kedar Jadhav were the men to depart after Vijay. Cremer bowled beautifully to pull things back in their favour, leaving India reeling at 69 for five.
All-rounder Stuart Binny and Sanju Samson added some crucial runs in the middle overs and steadied the Indian ship. Binny proved to be an important addition to this Indian ODI squad as he kept his calm and pulled his side out of a ditch. He did the same a number of times during the recently concluded ODI series as well.
Meanwhile, Samson, who replaced an injured Ambati Rayudu in the tour and made his international debut in this match, also played sensibly. These two batted well in tandem and did not let the pressure get to them. It was easier for Binny and Samson to keep the scoreboard ticking.
From 69 runs for the loss of five wickets in nine overs, India recovered well with the help of Binny and Samson. In the 16th over, Binny lofted one off Cremer to long off. Chibhabha ran quite a distance and took a fantastic forward diving catch to dismiss the ominous-looking Binny.
Axar Patel came into the crease and the momentum yet again shifted towards Zimbabwe. At a point, India needed 32 runs from the last three overs. Samson was dismissed by Chris Mpofu in the 18th over. Yet again India lost a wicket when they desperately needed a batsman to stay till the end. Axar was dismissed in the 19th over trying to hit over the midwicket area for a maximum.
Zimbabwean bowlers bowled really well towards the end of the innings. They managed to restrict the batsmen from scoring freely.
Cremer was the pick of the Zimbabwean bowlers as he picked up three important wickets of Vijay, Pandey and Binny. He gave away just 18 runs in his spell of four overs. Other bowlers proved to be expensive as they were taken for plenty of runs. Uthappa was the batsman who took on the Zimbabwean bowlers earlier during the innings, and helped India to keep up with the required run rate.
Uthappa played a good knock of 42 runs from just 25 balls which included nine boundaries. Eventually, he got out off a delivery from Sean Williams as he hit the ball straight back to the bowler and Williams was good enough to cling on to that opportunity. Other than Uthappa, only Binny and Samson showed some character. No other batsmen could stay there at the wicket for long.
Earlier, aiming to avoid a whitewash in the two-match T20 series, Zimbabwe posted a challenging target of 146 runs on Sunday. After losing the ODI series 3-0 to the visitors, Zimbabwe now trail 1-0 in the shortest format.
Zimbabwe won the toss and chose to bat in Harare, after deeming the wicket to be good for batting. Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha came out to open for Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe started off briskly. Sandeep Sharma was taken for plenty in the first two overs of his spell. The hosts lost their first wicket in Masakadza at the score of 28, but, yet, they scored 48 runs during the Powerplay overs.
Chibhabha continued with his good run of form with bat and helped the hosts reach 145 runs. He scored 67 runs from 51 balls, comprising nine boundaries.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was the pick of the bowlers yet again for India. The medium-pacer gave away just 12 runs in his first two overs and another 14 in the last two.
Bhuvneshwar claimed three wickets, including that of Chibhabha in the penultimate over. He also removed Craig Ervine with a brilliant yorker.
The Indian spin attack was led by Axar Patel and part time off-spinner Murali Vijay. Axar proved to be an important spinning option in the middle overs. He helped India pull things back.
Axar picked the wicket of Sean Williams in the 12th over. He gave away 23 runs in his spell of four overs.
Mohit Sharma snatched two wickets in his four overs. He got the wickets of Sikander Raza and Prosper Utseya.
India made only one change to the team, as Harbhajan Singh was rested for the last match to give Samson a chance.