A fancied India suffered a shocking two-run defeat at the hands of an unheralded Zimbabwe as they failed to chase down a tricky target in the first T20 International cricket match in Harare on Saturday.
Chasing a target of 171, India were restricted to 168 for six with seamer Neville Madziva bowling a brillint over to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
After a 3-0 cakewalk in the preceding ODI series, India were brought down to earth by this embarrassing defeat in which captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s reputation as a finisher again took a beating.
Needing only 8 off the final over, Dhoni who couldn’t connect a single big shot during his sedate 19 off 17 balls.
Surprisingly, Dhoni took single to expose Himachal Pradesh’s Rishi Dhawan (1), who simply lacked quality or ability to hit the ball out of the park.
Madziva bowled fuller and a few length deliveries, mixing it up nicely as the few hundreds of Zimbabwean supporters were ecstatic in joy.
IPL regulars like Manish Pandey (48) and Axar Patel (18) did their bit to set it up but when it mattered the most, the little known Zimbabwean boys, none of whom have franchise contract in private leagues did it for their country.
With 79 required off 42 balls, Pandey decided to take on rival captain Graeme Cremer, hitting him for two consecutive sixes as 16 runs came off the 14th over in company of skipper Dhoni. The presence of Dhoni also ensured that singles were converted into doubles.
The skipper got his first boundary in the next over with a nice little bisected between point and gully that went for a boundary. The bowler was Taurai Muzarabani. The 15th over yielded 10 runs.
With Pandey getting a boundary off Neville Madziva’s next over that produced 12 runs — India’s victory bid was back on track with 38 runs coming off three overs.
Just when it looked that Pandey will take India home, he mistimed a lofted shot off Muzarabani’s bowling to get out for 48 off 35 balls having hit a four and three sixes.
This brought down the equation to 28 off 16 balls. However Axar Patel hit one of the biggest sixes of the match over long-on to bring the equation down to 21 from 12 balls.
A four and six off penultimate over saw Axar bring down the equation to 8 from the last over which the Indians failed to get. India will play second match at the same venue on Monday.