Harare: India's quest to maintain a clean slate in their short cricket tour of Zimbabwe went up in smoke as they suffered a 10-run loss to the hosts in the second and final Twenty20 international here on Sunday.
Chasing 146 for win, India were looking down the barrel at 69 for five in nine overs. Stuart Binny (24) and debutant Sanju Samson (19) played cameos, but the visitors still fell short at the Harare Sports Club.
India, who had won the ODI series 3-0, thus ended with a 1-1 stalemate in the two-match Twenty20 series. For Zimbabwe, Graeme Cremer snapped up three wickets for 18 runs in his four overs, while SC Williams (1/31), Taurai Muzarabani (1/23) and Chris Mpofu (1/26) took one each.
Earlier, Indian bowlers produced an impressive performance to restrict Zimbabwe to 145 for seven, riding on Chamu Chibhabha's fourth T20I half-century. India suffered an early blow, losing skipper Ajinkya Rahane only in the third ball. He was run out after a mix-up with his partner Murali Vijay.
Vijay (13) and Robin Uthappa (40) then added 53 runs in 34 balls before the former was sent packing by leg-spinner Cremer, who beat him for pace and toppled his off-stump in the seventh over.
Three balls later, Cremer struck again when he trapped new man Manish Pandey in front of the wicket with a googly that pitched on middle and leg and skidded on to beat the batsmen, leaving India at 57-3.
In the next over, Sean Williams bowled and caught Uthappa, who was looking good till then. The batsman popped a return catch as Williams stretched his hands over his head to latch onto it.
Jadhav too was run out when Muzarabani produced a direct hit as India lost half their side in nine overs. Binny and Samson raised hopes with a 36-run partnership, but the former was sent back into the hut by a stunning catch by Chibhabha as Cremer picked up his third wicket. In the 18th over, Samson holed out at long-on with Malcolm Waller taking the catch off Chris Mpofu as India slipped to 117-7.
Axar Patel (13) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (9), too, perished in the process as India ended their campaign with a loss. Earlier, the Indians took wickets at regular intervals to deny momentum to the home side, but opener Chibhabha ensured that Zimbabwe put up a respectable total with a superb 51-ball 67 after his side elected to bat on a slow pitch.
For India, pacers Mohit Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar grabbed two wickets each while Sandeep Sharma, Stuart Binny and Axar Patel took one apiece. For Sandeep, it was his maiden international wicket after getting his first India cap in the first T20 two days back.
Zimbabwe did not start brightly as they lost opener Hamilton Masakadza (19) in the fourth over off the bowling of Sandeep, who induced a faint edge off the bat for Robin Uthappato do the rest behind the stumps.
The home side were soon 48 for two as Sikandar Raza (8), who captained Zimbabwe in the absence of Elton Chingumbura, could stay at the crease for just two overs before becoming Sharma's second victim. Zimbabwe were 48/2 in the sixth over.
With India gaining the upper hand, captain Rahane gave the ball to part-timer Vijay to bowl his off-breaks. Vijay, bowling for the first time in T20Is, did a decent job by conceding nine runs in his two overs as Zimbabwe could reach 76 for 2 at the halfway mark.
Zimbabwe needed to push the scoring rate and in doing so, lost the wickets of Sean Williams (17) and Charles Coventry (4) in the 12th and 16th overs without much contributions.
It was left to Chibhabha to take Zimbabwe to a respectable total and he did it to quite an extent before he was out in the penultimate over. Ultimately, Zimbabwe failed to give the final push as they lost three wickets in the last two overs. They added just 33 runs in the last five overs and lost four wickets.