India top order, spinners muzzle Zimbabwe
India didn't have to exert a lot as they muzzled Zimbabwe's challenge by 54 runs in the first T20 international and continued to remain unbeaten on the tour
India 178 for 5 (Uthappa 39*, Mpofu 3-33) beat Zimbabwe 124 for 7 (Axar 3-17) by 54 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
India did not have to exert a lot as they muzzled Zimbabwe's challenge by 54 runs in the first T20 international and continued to remain unbeaten on the tour. It was India's third-largest victory in terms of runs and they stuck to a trusted, even if predictable, template: elect to bat on a dry surface, pile the runs and throw their spinners at the opposition.
India's batting was propelled by reasonable contributions by the top four, and despite slowing down in the middle stages, managed to find an extra gear to ransack 96 runs in the last 10 overs. Zimbabwe let themselves down by conceding 25 extras - the fourth-most in an innings in T20 internationals - and some sloppy fielding.
Chasing 179 for victory, Zimbabwe started well with their openers Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha adding 55 in 8.1 overs. But, after Chibhabha's uppish strike off Harbhajan Singh was pouched by a diving Manish Pandey, who had sprinted a good distance to his left from long-on, Zimbabwe lost three more wickets in the next two overs. This included a double-strike from Axar Patel - one of India's five debutants - in the 10th over that dismissed Masakadza and captain Elton Chigumbura. Chigumbura was late on a skiddy, sharpish arm ball four balls after Masakadza lap-swept one to short fine.
Zimbabwe disintegrated rapidly after that as Charles Coventry flicked Harbhajan straight to short midwicket and a Mohit Sharma direct-hit from deep mid-wicket caught Craig Ervine short of the crease. Thereafter, only formalities had to be dispensed with as Axar and Harbhajan finished with five wickets between them giving away only 46 runs.
India's batsmen were barely challenged for the most part of the first ten overs, as openers Ajinkya Rahane and M Vijay amused themselves with lazy leg-side whips and drives with minimalist footwork. That they mixed such genteel strokeplay with opportunistic running only added to Zimbabwe's pressure.
The home side weren't helping themselves with some nervy bowling that resulted in a rash of wides - there were 13 in all - and a tendency to stray down the leg side. Debutants Taurai Muzarabani and Neville Madziva were bullied with after Chigumbura probably erred by introducing them too early in the piece. Muzarabani, brought on in the third over, went for nine runs, while Madziva conceded ten in the very next over.
Muzarabani 's first ball in international cricket was short and just above waist height, and it provided the release Rahane was looking for. His slap-pull gave India their first four and Vijay delivered a trenchant whack past mid-off off the last ball to provide a symmetrical finish to the over. Rahane, standing well outside the crease to make up for the lack of pace, drove, dinked and pulled Madziva to fracture his morale.
Chigumbura erred further in giving them another over each, as Muzurabani bled 17 runs and Madziva 11, Vijay being the assaulter-in chief. By the time Chigumbura realised his mistake, India had plundered 58 runs in six overs. It was thanks to some alert work in the field by Sikandar Raza that Zimbabwe finally broke through after Vijay and Rahane had put on 64. Raza homed in on the ball at midwicket after Vijay set off for a quick single, and found the stumps at the non-striker's end.
Zimbabwe gained greater traction after legspinner Graeme Cremer was given the ball. Rahane was on his way back in the 10th over when a liberally tossed up, dipped and turned upon landing, and his resultant leading edge popped up to point.
Robin Uthappa and Pandey didn't find the going easy against Cremer, who finished with figures of 4-1-20-1, but still managed to stitch together 45 runs in six overs. Mpofu came back in the 16th over to remove Pandey, who lofted a slower delivery down the throat of long off. He also went on to pick up the wickets of Kedar Jadhav and Stuart Binny, but that wouldn't hurt India as they scored 55 runs in the last five overs, including 24 off the last two.
Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo