India went into the final match against Zimbabwe looking to complete a whitewash. But, more than a victory, which seemed like a mere formality, India would have been looking forward to putting up a comprehensive performance. Which is exactly what they did. Yes, the opposition was Zimbabwe, but it was still the most complete performance by an Indian team in recent times. A victory by 10 wickets, with almost 28 overs to spare tells the story of India's complete domination of Zimbabwe. India had won the first two matches by comprehensive margins of 9 and 8 wickets. But, with Wednesday's victory, they bettered both those wins.
Zimbabwe's approach to the match was a mix of baffling and understandable. They went into the match knowing they needed to really apply themselves hard to try and compete, leave along winning. In the process, they adopted an ultra-defensive approach. And, while they managed to keep wickets in hand in the first half, ultimately it played into India's hands. Although Zimbabwe's batsmen were battling it out, they really weren't putting any pressure on the Indians, since the runs were coming only in trickles. As a result, India constantly managed to maintain a stranglehold on the Zimbabweans. In hindsight, the hosts could have been a bit more positive.
The turning point of the match, if one may want to call it so, was pretty simple to figure out. After slugging it out for 30 overs, Zimbabwe ended up losing four wickets in four balls in rather bizarre fashion. That pretty much summed up their match, and in many ways the series as well. They were never in the game, or rather the Indians never allowed them to get even a toe nail in. 104 for 3 in the 33rd over was not a bad position to be in. Zimbabwe could have battled on and finished with a competitive total. But, it was all lost in a matter of four balls as they collapsed to 104 for 7. Those four deliveries would have dented Zimbabwe severely as they fell apart.
The positives for India in the match, as been the case throughout the series, were numerous. Jasprit Bumrah continued with his brilliant show with the ball, never allowing the batsmen to get into any sort of flow. In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that hosts found him almost unplayable, as Bumrah picked up another four-wicket haul. The other bowlers also continued with their good work. Dhawal Kulkarni again supported Bumrah well with the ball while both the spinners, Axar Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal. were thrifty while also claiming wickets. In the batting, Lokesh Rahul continued his great run while Faiz Fazal, picked out of relative obscurity, made a memorable half century on debut.
For Zimbabwe, it was the batting that yet again let them down. They won the toss this time, and still decided to bat. But, luck with the toss apart, their fortunes hadn't changed. The senior members of the team, of whom so much was expected at the start of the series, let them down again. Hamilton Masakadza registered one more failure, and while Vusi Sibanda was once again the top scorer, he did not play a long enough innings. Chamu Chibhabha also got a start, but did not carry on. Zimbabwe made numerous changes in the team, but none of them worked. In the end, India were way too strong for them.
--By A Cricket Analyst