Having thrashed Zimbabwe 3-0 in the one-day series, with comprehensive margins, India went into the T20 series all pumped up. They were clear favourites as the match began on Saturday. And, for most part, they event dominated the game. But, the beauty of the T20 format is such that you can end up losing the match, even if you have played 80 per cent good cricket, and faltered in only the rest 20 per cent. This is exactly what happened with India in the opening match. They were in front for most occasions, with both bat and ball, yet ended up on the losing side.
There were two phases in the match which had significant bearing on the outcome. The first was Elton Chigumbara walked in and blasted the Indian attack all over the park. At one stage in the innings, Zimbabwe were in no position to finish with a challenging score batting first. But, Chigumbura, who struggled in the ODIs, changed it all. His smashing 54 not out from merely 26 balls, which featured as many as seven sixes came like a bolt out of the blue. None of the bowlers were spared as Zimbabwe finally found their rhythm out of nowhere to stun India.
The second phase which made a big difference to the end result was India’s batting towards the end of the innings. The Indian skipper MS Dhoni has often made it a habit of leaving things too late, and he did the same on Saturday as well. While the move worked when he was at his peak, of late it has backfired more than once. Saturday was another occasion when he took the game into the last over, and although there were only 8 to get, he failed to take India home. 19 from 17 balls under the circumstances will be questioned.
While India’s batsmen let the team down, all praise must go to Neville Madziva for the brilliant final over he bowled. It is never easy for a player to hold his nerve under intense pressure. And the task becomes doubly difficult if the man at the other end batting is the big-hitting Dhoni. But, Madziva came up with a memorable performance to outside Dhoni and the Indians. He bowled a brilliant combination of slower balls and yorkers to end up defending 8 runs in the final over. Axar Patel too was looking dangerous having hit two sixes, but Madziva kept him quiet as well.
There were some other crucial supporting acts as well which aided Zimbabwe in achieving their second consecutive T20 triumph against India. Taurai Muzarabani picked up 2 for 31 to hold back India while Chamu Chibhabha also claimed a couple of key wickets. With the bat, while Chigumbura was the standout performer, Malcolm Waller contributed an important 30 while Hamilton Masakadza, Chibhabha and Sikandar Raza all contributed 20s. India’s heroes in the one-dayers, Yuzvendra Chahal and Lokesh Rahul had a poor day, and it hurt India in a big way.
--By A Cricket Analyst