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Zimbabwe defeat World Champions India in T20I Series Opener

Sikandar Raza and Tendai Chatara starred with the ball as Zimbabwe recorded a magnificent 13-run victory over India in the first encounter of the five-match Twenty20 international (T20I) series between the sides at a packed Harare Sports Club on Saturday.

The hosts were put in to bat and lost Innocent Kaia, bowled off the inside edge of his bat by Mukesh Kumar off the first ball he faced.

The next four overs were the best innings for Zimbabwe, as Wessly Madhevere and Brian Bennett scored 34 runs, taking the score to 40 before Bennett was a little unfortunate to be bowled by the leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi for 22 off 15 balls, with five fours, the ball just flicking off a bail.

At 51, Bishnoi’s googly bowled out Madhevere for 21, and there followed a promising partnership of 23 between Raza and Dion Myers.

However, they needed to increase the scoring rate, and Raza holed out on the midwicket boundary for 17.

Johnathan Campbell was run out first ball, Myers lobbed a return catch to the bowler for 23 off 22 balls, next ball Wellington Masakadza was beaten and stumped, and Zimbabwe were 89 for seven in the 15th over.

Worse followed in Bishnoi’s next over, as in three balls Luke Jongwe and Blessing Muzarabani departed and the last man, Chatara, joined Clive Madande at the crease.

As he so often does, Madande put up a fine fight, and in the last four overs he added another 25 runs while Chatara heroically survived the nine balls he faced.

As it turned out, Chatara’s scoreless innings and partnership with Madande proved to be crucial in the final outcome.

Madande finished as Zimbabwe’s top scorer with 29 not out off 25 balls.

Bishnoi, the man who started the collapse and nearly ended the innings, took four wickets for 13 runs, a very valuable stint of bowling for the tourists.

He was well supported by the off-spinner Washington Sundar, who took two middle-order wickets for 11 runs.

With a score of only 115 for nine wickets, Zimbabwe looked like giving India a virtual walkover, but they came back remarkably strongly when the visitors began their innings.

In the first over Abhishek Sharma skyed an attempted pull and was caught off Bennett without a run on the board.

With the score 15 in the fourth over, Ruturaj Gaikwad was well caught by Kaia at slip as he edged a leg-cutter from Muzarabani.

Chatara struck twice in the following over, having Riyan Parag (2) caught off an attempted drive, and two balls later Rinku Singh was caught off a skyed pull.

After five overs India were reeling at 22 for four wickets.

At the other end was still India’s renowned opening batter, Shubman Gill.

Dhruv Jurel struggled for one run off his first 11 balls, but finally drove Jongwe for four.

Trying a repeat off the following ball, he was caught at extra cover for six and India were 43 for five.

Four runs later Raza secured the big fish, producing a superb delivery that beat Gill and went from his pad on to his stumps.

He scored 31 off 29 balls and India were now reeling at 47 for six wickets in the 11th over.

All the specialist batters had now gone, and Sundar and Bishnoi took the score to 61 in the 13th over before the latter was trapped lbw by Raza for nine – seven wickets down.

Avesh Khan took his life in his hands and went on the attack, scoring three boundaries before he was caught at long-off for 16 as he tried to hit a six, making it 84 for eight in the 16th over.

One over and two runs later the ninth wicket fell, as tail-ender Mukesh Kumar was bowled by a superb delivery from Raza’s last possible delivery that went through the gate between bat and pad.

The score was 86 for nine, another 30 runs needed in the final three overs, and India needed a near-miracle from Sundar.

He hit a six and a four from Jongwe, and 12 runs came from the 18th over – 98 for nine.

Muzarabani bowled a good 19th over, yielding only a wide and a single, leaving 16 runs needed from the final over, bowled by Chatara, with Sundar to face.

Sundar chipped the second ball for two, but was unable to piece the field for the next two deliveries.

Then he went for a desperate big hit off the fifth ball, only to send up a skyer that was well held by Muzarabani and Zimbabwe had an unexpected victory to celebrate.

Sundar made 27 off 34 balls and India were dismissed for 102 runs.

Chatara took three wickets for 16 runs and Raza three for 25.

Zimbabwe’s superb victory has given real life to this five-match series, which will be continued Sunday with the second T20I at the same venue.

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