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Jadhav, bowlers hold nerve to wrap up series win for India

Wisden India logo Wisden India 22-06-2016

Kedar Jadhav’s 58 off 42 balls and a fighting effort from the bowlers helped India sneak past Zimbabwe by three runs in a see-sawing third and final Twenty20 International in Harare on Wednesday (June 22). The result helped India win the series 2-1.

Zimbabwe opted to bowl first after winning the toss and kept India to 138 for 6. It was the sort of score that when viewed through a narrow lens would seem a middling one. Pressure, however, is a funny thing. The home side entered the chase not only fighting a team that was perched at No. 2 in the T20I rankings before this game, but also their own nerves.

It boiled down to 21 runs needed off the last over, bowled by Barinder Sran, who only a few days ago ripped through Zimbabwe’s batting line-up in the second T20I. Timycen Maruma (23 not out) muscled a six off the first ball, while Sran bowled the widest of wides and then a waist-high no-ball that yielded four runs. Sran calmed down to bowl two dots and conceded one off the fourth ball, before the fifth was hit for four by Elton Chigumbura. Just another boundary was needed, but Chigumbura (16) could only toe-end to Yuzvendra Chahal at cover to invoke celebrations from Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s boys.

The first of Sran’s two wickets came in the third over, when he dismissed Chamu Chibhabha early. But India were caught by surprise as Vusi Sibanda and Hamilton Masakadza continued to be positive.

Sibanda, in particular, was looking in excellent touch as the ball was drilled to different parts of the ground. A touch of desperation was evident as India appealed unsuccessfully when the ball grazed Masakadza’s shoulder, but they had their man soon enough lbw for 15 off Chahal.

India snuck in a quiet over and prised out Sibanda (28), but Peter Moor gave the visitors another scare, belting three sixes off Chahal. The legspinner, however, had the last laugh as he plucked Moor out for a 21-ball 26 to leave Zimbabwe at 88 for 4.

With Zimbabwe requiring 51 from the last six overs and Elton Chigumbura at the crease, a win didn’t seem out of the question, but Jasprit Bumrah and Axar Patel didn’t allow the batsmen to free their arms. Those few overs ultimately proved to be Zimbabwe’s undoing.

Batting first for the first time in the tour, a few plays and misses by KL Rahul against Tendai Chatara meant India’s innings started with a maiden over. Honours were even though after Rahul clubbed the same bowler for a flurry of boundaries in the third.

Buoyed by Rahul’s strokes, Mandeep Singh tried to go after Donald Tiripano next, but ended up offering a catch to cover. Zimbabwe have often squandered the advantage of an early wicket in the One-Day Internationals but this time around, they managed to frazzle India, reducing them to 27 for 3 at the end of five overs.

Neville Madziva induced an inside edge to nab the in-form Rahul for a 20-ball 22 before Manish Pandey found himself run out the very next ball.

India rightly clamped down on the aggression as Ambati Rayudu and Jadhav looked to build a partnership, but they were helped in part by a straightforward catch put down by Masakadza at extra cover. Jadhav was the beneficiary on the occasion, dropped on 15 in the tenth over.

Zimbabwe’s fielding wasn’t entirely lacking – there were a few runs saved in the outfield – but it certainly could have been tighter. As a result, a 49-run partnership flourished between Jadhav and Rayudu before the latter fell tamely to Graeme Cremer, chipping the ball to long on.

In strode Dhoni, but the ball from Tiripano kept a bit low and rattled both stumps and bails, one even striking the captain on the eye. A serious injury was avoided, but with India at 95 for 5 and only three overs left, they were still not in the clear as far as the game was concerned.

But Jadhav and Axar Patel decided to go for broke and the runs started flowing once again. Jadhav’s knock came to an end with a Tiripano legcutter doing him in, but Axar Patel (20 not out) provided just enough runs for India to get across the line.

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