Unfancied Zimbabwe stun India by 13 runs in first T20I

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Harare, Jul 6 (PTI) An inexperienced yet spirited Zimbabwe pulled off an upset of massive proportions when they stunned an Indian team brimming with an array of Next-Gen stars by 13 runs in the first T20I of the five-match series here on Saturday.

India, who were recently crowned champions in the T20 World Cup albeit with a different set of players, were expected to trot past an unfancied Zimbabwe and the script followed that line when the hosts were restricted to 115 for nine.

But from there, Zimbabwe wrote their own narrative, reducing India to 28 for four in the Power Play and then eventually bowled them out for 102 in 19.5 overs.

Pacer Tendai Chatara (3/16) and skipper Sikandar Raza (3/25) led the home side bowling with aplomb.

It was India’s first defeat in T20Is in 2024 and first against Zimbabwe in eight years.

The second match of the series is slated on Sunday.

India’s stutter began in the first over itself, losing Abhishek Sharma, one of three T20I debutants along with Riyan Parag and Dhruv Jurel, for duck.

Sharma's almighty cross-batted heave off Brian Benett was caught easily by Wellington Masakadza in the outfield.

But what was perceived as an initial scratch soon turned into a deep gash as India kept losing wickets.

Ruturaj Gaikwad (7) could not negate a slightly bouncier offering from pacer Blessing Muzarabani, edging it to Innocent Kaia at the floating first slip.

Soon, pacer Tendai Chatara dealt a double blow to India, dismissing Parag (2) and Rinku Singh (0) in the space of three balls in the fifth over.

Parag’s over-enthusiastic loft over mid-off could not clear substitute Brandon Mavuta, while Rinku did not have the necessary space to execute pull off a climbing-up delivery.

However, skipper Shubman Gill kept India in the chase with a sensible knock (31, 5x4), but Sikandar Raza accounted for his counterpart with a delivery that skidded past his bat to rattle the stumps.

Avesh Khan (16, 12b) and Washington Sundar (27, 34b) added 23 runs for the eighth wicket to take India to 84 but a full-blooded smash off a Masakadza full-toss was accepted by Raza at long-off.

At 84 for eight and then at 86 for nine, the fight was well and truly over.

India needed 16 runs off the last over and despite Washington being there, they could only manage just two runs as Zimbabwe celebrated a famous win with all fervour.

Before their batters faltered, the Indian bowlers led by leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi, performed admirably on a pitch that had a hint of extra bounce and sufficient carry.

Bishnoi returned with a career-best 4/13 and received adequate support from off-spinner Washington (2/11) as Zimbabwe struggled to stitch any meaningful partnership.

However, Zimbabwe made a rather brisk start to their innings, reaching 40 for two in the Power Play segment even though their batters were not always convincing.

After the early dismissal of Kaia, who dragged a Mukesh Kumar delivery onto his stumps, Wessly Madhevere (21, 22b) and Bennett (22, 15b) added 34 runs in quick time.

The highlight of their alliance was the fifth over in which they plundered 17 runs off left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed.

Bennett hammered him for two successive boundaries as Zimbabwe seemed to have recovered from the early loss of Kaia.

But the ouster of Bennett by Bishnoi in the sixth over changed the complexion of Zimbabwe’s innings. Bennett could not read Bishnoi’s googly, which also carried three more Zimbabwe batters to their doom later – Madhevere, Muzarabani and Luke Jongwe.

They crawled to 74 for three from there, courtesy the patience of skipper Raza (17, 19b) but lost their way from that point, losing six wickets for 41 runs.

The hosts' batters seemed to have slipped into a state of panic, evidenced by the dismissal of Jonathan Campbell, son of former Zimbabwe captain Alastair Campbell.

Campbell pushed an Avesh delivery to the covers and called for a single and his partner Dion Myers responded.

But Campbell changed his mind suddenly and stayed back as Myers crossed the crease, forcing the former to walk back.

Their last hope rested on experienced Raza, and he raised some hope, smashing Avesh for a six over the bowler’s head.

But the extra bounce Avesh generated soon did Raza in as his mis-timed pull ended in the hands of Bishnoi in the deep.

Washington joined the party with two wickets in as many balls, jettisoning Myers (23, 22b) and Wellington Masakadza (0) off consecutive balls.

In the process, the Tamil Nadu man also completed 100 wickets in T20s.

Clive Madande’s cameo (29 not out, 25b) helped Zimbabwe go past the 100-run mark and that proved a tad too many for India this day. PTI UNG TAP