India picked up a second series win of the Zimbabwe tour, but it was not quite as resounding as the one they managed in the ODI series. Up against it, after losing the first T20, India came roaring back with a comprehensive win in the second game, before clinching the series in the 3rd T20 on Wednesday, courtesy a not-convincing-but-it-will-do three-run win at the Harare Sports Club.
Put into bat, India really struggled, with only Kedar Jadhav (58, 42b, 7x4, 1x6) making a real score of note, as they finished their 20 overs on 138/6. Zimbabwe looked on course on a fair few occasions in the chase, but the pressure of the chase looked like it was going to cause them to fall short, before Timycen Maruma (23 n.o., 13b, 1x4, 2x6) decided to make the match interesting.
Needing 32 runs from the final two overs, the match seemed done and dusted, but Maruma got one off the middle off Bumrah in the penultimate over to take it to 21 off six balls, before a six, wide and a no-ball four meant Zimbabwe needed just 9 from 5 balls. Two dot deliveries followed from Barinder Sran (4-1-31-2), though, before a single meant Elton Chigumbura (16, 16b, 2x4), the hero of the first T20, had to hit a couple of boundaries off the final two balls. The first of those came, off the toe-edge of the bat, which went past short third man, leaving Zimbabwe needed four off the last ball.
That final ball, a low full toss on off stump, would go off the bottom of Chigumbura's bat and fall into the lap of Chahal at cover to give India a phew-that-was-close three-run victory.
Zimbabwe got off to a decent enough start, despite losing Chamu Chibhabha in the third over, caught at midwicket by Yuzvendra Chahal off the bowling of Sran, with Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza taking the home team to a solid 40/1 after the Powerplay overs.
Sibanda threatened to take the game away from India, with some outstanding clean hitting, most of them straight back past the bowler, but as is so often the case, that momentum would cease in a hurry as India picked up two wickets in the space of a couple of overs.
Masakadza (15, 21b, 2x4) was first struck in front, after missing a sweep shot, off the bowling of Axar Patel, before Dhawal Kulkarni, carted for a few in his first two overs, dipped one in and caught Sibanda (28, 23b, 5x4) lbw.
India now sensed a way back into the match, with Zimbabwe needing 79 from 57 balls at that point, but Peter Moor (26, 21b, 3x6) took them closer with a few lusty blows, most of them off Chahal (4-0-32-1), who just could not find his rhythm in this match. Chahal, though, would dismiss Moor in the 14th over, leaving the home side needing 51 off the final six overs, with six wickets in hand.
It was all down to Chigumbura now to take Zimbabwe to a win, after Malcolm Waller also fell, but the experienced right-hander could not find the boundaries, and while Maruma made it interesting, India just about held on.
The India innings was a struggle from the start, with the openers – KL Rahul and Mandeep Singh -- falling early, and then none of the batsmen able to really play that special innings which takes the game away from the opposition. Yes, it was not an easy pitch to bat on, but it was not one with demons in it – there was no seam movement or swing, and not much spin, either.
While the pace of the wicket was slow, with the Zimbabwe bowlers bringing their variations into play really nicely, India will know they should have batted better. At the end of the day, there were just too many dot deliveries brought on by the three wickets in the Powerplay overs.
The first to go was Mandeep Singh, who went for an over-the-offside-drive too early, only to mishit it off Donald Tiripano, with Maruma running back and taking a nice catch.
KL Rahul then seemed to say, "let's make this game interesting" by throwing away his wicket with a slog across the line, that only found his inside edge to cannon onto the stumps. Manish Pandey lasted all of one delivery, going for a single to mid-on that was never there, with Chigumbura running the right-hander out.
Ambati Rayudu and Jadhav put on 49 runs in as many balls for the fourth wicket, but with no impetus, at the beginning, or in this partnership, India were always struggling to get to a decent score. The only way to get to around 150 for India was for someone to play a blinder, but Rayudu (20, 26b, 1x4) fell and so did MS Dhoni (9, 13b, 1x4), and while India managed to get 51 runs from the final five overs, thanks to some decent hitting from Jadhav, who was lucky to get to his score, considering Masakadza dropped a sitter when the batsman was only on 15, and Axar Patel (20 n.o., 11b, 1x6), it was far from a great total, with Zimbabwe nearly getting there.