Zimbabwe down India by 10 runs

A gritty Zimbabwe overcame a below-par India by 10 runs to draw their two-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series at the Harare Sports Club here on Sunday.

Opener Chamu Chibhabha’s fighting knock of a 51-ball 67 lifted Zimbabwe to 145/7 in 20 overs. In reply, India managed only 135/9 in the allotted 20 overs to lose their second T20I match.

Robin Uthappa’s breezy knock of a 25-ball 42 gave India immense impetus but the visitors were reduced to 69/5 in nine overs. Stuart Binny (25), debutant Sanju Samson (19) and Axar Patel (13) gave India a lot of hopes but their contributions were not enough.

Zimbabwe came into the match desperate to salvage some pride as they were blanked 0-3 in the One-Day International (ODI) series and also lost the first T20I by 54 runs.

They found their hero in right-hander Chibhabha, who registered his fourth T20I fifty and waged a lone battle as Indian bowlers took wickets at regular intervals to keep the hosts in check. The 28-year-old in-form batsman completed his half-century in 38 deliveries and hit nine fours during his stay.

Chibhabha, who scored two fifties in the three-match One-Day International (ODI) series, and Hamilton Masakadza (19) started positively. But India drew the first blood when Masakadza edged a medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma-delivery to wicketkeeper Robin Uthappa off the second ball of the third over.

Later, medium pacer Mohit Sharma reduced Zimbabwe to 2/48 in the sixth over by getting rid of Sikandar Raza (8), who captained the hosts after regular skipper Elton Chigumbura got injured. The right-handed batsman played but not with enough force to beat Samson at deep third man.

Chibhabha found support from Sean Williams (17) and they managed a 37-run third-wicket partnership that ended when the left-hander offered a return catch to young left-arm spinner Axar Patel.

The hosts’ innings struggled even in the death overs with Charles Conventry (4) failing to trouble the Indians as he was ruled leg before wicket (LBW) against all-rounder Binny. Chibhabha also perished, being bowled by medium fast bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Bhuvneshwar repeated his act when he dismantled the stumps of Craig Ervine (7). Lower-order bat Prosper Utseya (1) was dismissed by Mohit.

For India, Bhuvneshwar and Mohit took two wickets each, while Binny, Sandeep and Axar picked a wicket apiece that helped the visitors restrict Zimbabwe to 145/7.

In reply, India got off to a poor start, losing openers Ajinkya Rahane (4) and Murali Vijay (13) early. While skipper Rahane ran himself out, Tamil Nadu star Vijay was bowled by leg-spinner Graeme Cremer, who also removed Manish Pandey (0).

Karnataka batsman Uthappa found boundaries at will even though others were failing. He hit nine fours before offering a return catch to left-arm spinner Williams. Middle-order batsman Kedar Jadhav (5) found himself short of the crease at the bowler’s end while taking a Binny’s double. Taurai Muzarabani’s direct throw from deep mid-wicket forced India to slump to 69/5 in ninth over.

Thereafter, Binny (24) and young Kerala wicketkeeper-batsman Samson (19) forged a 36-run stand for the sixth wicket to revive India’s hopes.

But Cremer struck again, taking his third wicket as Binny offered a catch to Chibhabha. Axar and Samson did their best but it was not enough.

For Zimbabwe, Cremer was the pick of the bowlers as he gave away only 18 runs while taking three wickets in four overs. Christopher Mpofu, Williams and Muzarabani picked up a wicket apiece that forced India to complete the tour with a solita