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Chigumbura stars in Zimbabwe’s two-run heist

Wisden India logo Wisden India 18-06-2016

A change in format brought with it change in fortunes as Zimbabwe stunned India for a thrilling two-run win in the first Twenty20 International in Harare on Saturday (June 18).

© AFP Photo

Elton Chigumbura’s unbeaten 26-ball 54, studded with seven sixes, powered Zimbabwe to 170 for 6 in their 20 overs after being put in to bat before a combined bowling effort restricted the visiting side to 168 for 6. India were within touching distance of their fourth win of the tour but Nevill Madziva defended eight runs in the final over to deliver a sensational win.

India’s chase, and KL Rahul’s T20I career, started on the worst possible note when the opener steered Donald Tiripano onto the stumps off the very first ball. Madziva could have had Mandeep Singh, another one of India’s five T20I debutants in the match, for 7 but Taurai Muzarabani put down a fairly straightforward catch at long-on.

Buoyed by the reprieve, Mandeep, along with an attacking Ambati Rayudu for company, began to counter-punch in the Power Play but Chamu Chibhabha put the brakes on with two wickets in as many overs. First Rayudu missed a wild slog to be bowled, and then Mandeep chipped to long-off where Tinotenda Mutumbodzi completed a good catch diving forward leaving India 53 for 3 in the eighth over. Mysteriously, Chibhabha didn’t bowl after that, finishing with 2 for 13 in two overs.

A brief partnership between Manish Pandey and Kedhar Jadhav followed, before the latter chopped an ugly slog to his stumps in the 13th over.

The see-saw nature was similar to Zimbabwe’s innings but it was here that Pandey threatened to take control. Batting only for the second time in the series, Pandey paced his innings, and with it the chase, well but couldn’t finish the job. India needed a challenging 81 from 46 balls when Jadhav exited, with MS Dhoni needed to bat for the first time on tour.

Pandey realised the pressure on the new batsman and stepped up in style, blasting Graeme Cremer, the legspinner and captain, for two sixes in the 14thover. The odd boundary got the equation down to manageable levels before some incredible running between the wickets by Dhoni and Pandey got the target within touching distance.

But there would be more twists. Pandey miscued Muzarabani to deep cover with India still needing 28 from 16 balls, but Axar Patel played a cameo that nearly took the game away. The left-handed batsman smashed his second ball for a six and took 12 from the penultimate over, bowled by Tiripano, leaving India just eight to get from the final over.

It was advantage India with Dhoni on strike but Madziva executed his full balls to perfection, and Dhoni could only manage singles. Axar holed out to long-off in the second ball, and with Dhoni not finding the boundaries, the job was left on the inexperienced Rishi Dhawan. A wrong wide call by the umpire in the penultimate ball threatened to undo all of Madziva’s good work, but Dhoni could manage only one when India needed four from the last ball.

Zimbabwe’s innings was a start-stop affair for most parts. Every time their batsmen got a bit of a partnership going, India struck to pull things back. And then Chigumbura entered the scene to swing the pendulum Zimbabwe’s way.

Hamilton Masakadza shrugged off some poor form in the One-Day International series and gave Zimbabwe a quick start, smashing Jaydev Unadkat and Dhawan. Jasprit Bumrah, however, proved too good for the Zimbabwe opener and deceived him with a slower ball that was tamely paddled to Dhoni in the fifth over.

The home side suffered another setback when Richmond Mutumbami had to be carried off the field after being hit on the ribs by a short ball from Unadkat, and things became worse when Chibhabha handed Dhawan his maiden T20I wicket.

Zimbabwe were 50 for 2 – effectively three – and badly needed a partnership. They got that from Malcolm Waller and Sikandar Raza, the duo keeping the scorecard moving with some busy batting against the spinners.

But just when things were looking rosy for Zimbabwe, they lost both the set batsmen in a space of four balls. Waller was undone by a wrong one from Yuzvendra Chahal, the fifth man on debut alongside Rahul, Mandeep, Unadkat and Dhawan, while Raza was run out, leaving Zimbabwe staring at a familiar middle order collapse once again.

Fortunately for the few fans in the stadium, that wasn’t to be as Chigumbura unleashed a fine counterattack to give Zimbabwe the momentum at the break. He started by smashing a free-hit off Chahal over long-off and never looked back, repeatedly hitting the legspinner over the same area for massive sixes.

Dhoni turned to pace but that proved costlier, as Chigumbura hit sixes at will. Unadkat was taken for 21 runs in the 19th over courtesy two sixes over long-on – one of which went outside the stadium. Bumrah wasn’t spared either – Chigumbura hammered him for two more sixes in the final over to cross his half-century taking Zimbabwe to the 170 mark, which proved to be just enough at the end.

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