India’s complacency cost them dear as a disciplined Zimbabwe pipped the visitors by two runs to win the first T20 International at the Harare Sports Club . After conceding the One-Day International (ODI) series 0-3, the hosts were up to the challenge with an all-round effort as they took a 1-0 lead in the three-match T20I series.
For the first time in the tour, India’s batting faced some challenge as the middle order hardly got to spend time in the middle during the ODIs.
Chasing 171, India, who fielded five debutants, were off to an unexpected start losing the in-form Lokesh Rahul in the very first delivery before Mandeep Singh (31) and Ambati Rayudu (19) put on 44 runs.
Next in Manish Pandey took the attack to the hosts with a brilliant 35-ball 48 to take the team within sniffing distance of a win before falling to medium pacer Taurai Muzarabani.
Pandey, who blasted three sixes and a four, was involved in two partnerships – 37 runs for the fourth wicket with Kedar Jadhav (19) and then 53 with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni (19 not out) but that was not enough to take the team over the line.
Pandey’s fall brought in left-arm spinner Axar Patel (18) who blasted two massive sixes and a four before being dismissed in his attempt to accelerate.
With India needing seven runs off four balls, bowling all-rounder Rishi Dhawan joined Dhoni but the duo could add only two with Dhawan failing to connect when it mattered the most.
For the hosts, Chamu Chibhabha and Muzarabani were the most successful bowlers with two scalps each while Donald Tiripano and Neville Madziva took one wicket apiece.
Earlier, former skipper Elton Chigumbura’s late order onslaught guided Zimbabwe to 170/6 in their stipulated 20 overs.
Chigumbura blasted seven massive sixes and a four during his unbeaten 26-ball 55, which saw India leaking 59 runs in the last five overs. The right-hander’s eighth-wicket stand with Madziva yielded 40 runs as the Indians were searching for cover for the first time in the tour.
After being sent into bat, the hosts got off to a brisk start with openers Hamliton Masakadza and Chibhabha putting on 33 runs as the former blasted a 15-ball 25, including two consecutive sixes off medium pacer Jaydev Unadkat to lay the platform.
But the onslaught was soon controlled by young medium pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who sent back Masakadza with a slower off-cutter. Wicketkeeper-batsman Richmond Mutumbami, who came in next, retired after hurting himself while Chibhabha soon joined him at the dug out after scoring a 19-ball 20.
Next in Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller added 47 runs for the fourth wicket to take the hosts near the 100-run mark before Waller was castled by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal’s googly for a 21-ball 30, which included four hits to the fence.
With that wicket, Zimbabwe once again lost track as Raza (20) ran himself out while Axar accounted for Tinotenda Mutombodzi (3). Skipper Graeme Cremer (4) also perished cheaply but was Chigumbura’s late order heroics saved the hosts from another humiliation.
Faced with the sudden onslaught, the Indian bowlers looked helpless as medium pacers Jaydev Unadkat and Dhawan leaked 43 and 42 runs respectively. Bumrah was the most successful bowler with two wickets while Dhawan, Patel and Chahal chipped in with one wicket apiece.
India will now face the hosts in the second T20I on Monday at the same venue.