Elton Chigumbura`s heroic 104 not out was in vain as Zimbabwe fell agonisingly short of victory in the first of three one-day internationals against India at Harare Sports Club on Friday.
Zimbabwe appeared to be out of the game after slumping to 160 for six as they chased India`s 255 for six, but after carrying the hosts to within six runs of victory, Chigumbura failed to strike the final blow.
The home side -- who have improved vastly over the past year in the one day game -- went into the final over needing 10 to win and reduced that to six from three balls, but Bhuvneshwar Kumar held his nerve and Zimbabwe closed on 251 for seven to lose by four runs.
"He bowled well in that last over so it was hard," Chigumbura said of Kumar.
"I was just waiting for the one that he was going to miss and make sure I executed well, but I didn`t get any.
"It was disappointing to lose after fighting so hard."
The Indian victory was built on a career-best 124 not out from Ambati Rayudu, who put on a 160-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Stuart Binny after the visitors had slumped to 87 for five.
With the game getting underway at 9am local time, the hosts found some lateral movement as well as healthy bounce after they had won the toss, and a disciplined performance kept a second-string Indian unit on the back foot.
However once the pitch flattened out and the spinners came on, Rayudu counterpunched to good effect and then added 90 runs in the final 10 overs with Binny, who made 77.
Zimbabwe`s chase was hampered by their inability to build meaningful partnerships, with Vusi Sibanda, Hamilton Masakadza and Sikandar Raza Butt all guilty of getting out tamely after making promising starts.
When Raza fell for 37, Zimbabwe still needed 96 runs for victory and Chigumbura was the last recognised batsman.
The Zimbabwe captain was undeterred by such a tall ask, and reached his second successive century - an admirable feat given that he had not reached three figures in 173 ODIs before his maiden ton in Pakistan in May.
That innings had failed to bring victory in Lahore, and Chigumbura and Zimbabwe were denied once again this time as Kumar delivered an inch-perfect final over to send an enthusiastic crowd home disappointed.
The second match takes place at the same venue on Sunday.