The Indian spinners – Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh – combined brilliantly to earn a 54-run victory for the Men-In-Blue in the 1st T20I against Zimbabwe, at Harare. Chasing a target of 179, the hosts failed to get going in the face of disciplined bowling by Bhajji and Axar. Earlier, important contributions from Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Robin Uthappa had helped India post a challenging 178/5 in 20 overs.
India bat first, get off to a flyer
Murali Vijay (34 off 19) was at his aggressive best while opening the innings today, as he plundered runs at will in the first 6 overs. Ajinkya Rahane (33 off 32) played second fiddle to him and constructed a 64-run opening stand in just 7 overs. Robin Uthappa, who came in at No 3, kept the runs flowing with an useful innings of 39 off 35 balls. Manish Pandey chipped in with a run-a-ball 19. Besides, the 25 extras bowled by the Zimbabwean bowlers contributed significantly to the Indian total, which would otherwise have been stuck at around the 150-run mark.
Zimbabwe start well, but lose momentum quickly
Openers Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha gave Zimbabwe a steady start, with an opening stand of 55 runs in 8 overs. Even though the required run rate kept creeping up all the time, the two batsmen made genuine efforts to prepare a platform for the middle order. That however, failed to happen as the Indian spinning duo of Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh tightened the noose on the batsmen in quick time.
Axar Patel, Harbhajan Singh stifle Zimbabwe
From 55/0, Zimbabwe were reduced to 82/5 in the space of 5 overs. While Axar Patel bagged 3 of these 5 wickets, Bhajji bagged the other 2. The Zimbabwean middle order huffed and puffed for some time, but failed to get out of the web spun by Bhajji and Axar. Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar complemented the duo’s efforts with some economical fast bowling. Debutant Sandeep Sharma went wicket-less in the match, but the youngster ought to make the most of today’s experience in the next game. The chase looked well and truly over when the 5th wicket fell in the 14th over.
Man of the Match – Axar Patel