To be chasing 146 for victory in a T20 game should normally be regarded as easy. Zimbabwe batted first and one man dominated their batting and India’s bowlers. Chamu Chibhabha’s nonchalance was the single biggest factor as he kept one end going while his colleagues fell at the other. The mercurial opener went on until the 19th over and scored a 51-ball 67 out of his team’s total score of 145/7 in 20 overs. Only two other batsmen crossed double-digit scores as wickets kept falling regularly. But one man’s efforts were enough to lay India low despite the visitors looking on victory course at 56/1 after 6 overs. Pretty soon, Zimbabwean spinner Graeme Cremer held the top order Indian batsmen by their throats and helped by some smart fielding, Zimbabwe reduced India to 69/5 in the ninth over. While Cremer and Zimbabwe fielders, who affected three run-outs deserve credit, their cause was helped in generous proportion by India’s sordid and characterless batting. It became a grind for India as wickets kept tumbling and they fell short by 10 runs at the end of 20 overs. After their reasonably good performance in the four earlier matches of the short-tour, this was a poor way to finish.
Sikandar Raza was handed the reins of captaincy because Elton Chigumbura was injured. Raza had no hesitation in opting to bat first after winning the toss. Zimbabwe were quickly off the blocks with both openers striking well. However, Hamilton Masakadza fell to a beautiful piece of bowling from Sandeep Sharma. Though next man Sikandar Raza didn’t last long, Chamu Chibhabha kept going at the other end, adding 37 with Sean Williams for the third wicket. Apart from Masakadza’s 19 runs, Williams’ 17 was the only double-digit score in the Zimbabwe innings. But Chibhabha didn’t seem to need anyone. He had a dominant 28-run stand with Charles Coventry, who scored just 4 runs. The Zimbabwe opener went on until the penultimate over before he was bowled by Bhuvi Kumar’s beautifully directed angled yorker. Zimbabwe finished with 145/7 and it seemed India could make a match out of that total.
Coming on to chase 146, India lost Ajinkya Rahane on the third ball of the innings. Rahane attempted a non-existent single and failed to regain his ground, when the fine-leg fielder’s smart throw was used by the wicketkeeper to a great effect. But Murali Vijay and Robin Uthappa continued until the score reached 57/1 at the start of the sixth over. Just when the scoring tempo looked good for India, they lost Vijay and Manish Pandey in the space of 3 balls to Graeme Cremer. This was the beginning of India‘s downslide as Uthappa too fell as the fourth wicket after scoring a 25-ball 42. When Kedar Jadhav fell in the 9th over, India were in trouble. However, Stuart Binny and debutant Sanju Samson did their best to resurrect India with a 36-run sixth wicket stand. Now India required 41 off 30 balls and it could easily have been achieved. But Cremer came back for his second spell and removed Binny, who holed out to Chibhabha at long-off. India’s winning spirit went out as Sanju Samson and Axar Patel also got out in the 18th and 19th overs respectively. When Bhuvi Kumar fell in the 20th over, it was curtains for India as Zimbabwe emerged victorious by 10 runs to level the T-20 series 1-1.
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