Having beaten Zimbabwe by a comprehensive margin of ten wickets in the previous encounter, India went into the deciding T20 of the series with their confidence high. But, unlike in one-dayers, there is nothing really like form in the shortest format of the game. A couple of good performances or slip-ups from either side can decide a match. As such, Zimbabwe would have been hoping for it to be their day. It almost was. The hosts had India in big trouble bowling first, and came close in the chase as well, before falling tantalisingly short.
In a low-scoring game, one contribution can often make the vital difference. And, in this match, it was definitely the one by Kedar Jadhav. The middle order hadn’t got many chances in the previous games since India’s top order has done most of the scoring. However, on Wednesday, India lost three wickets in a rush, and found themselves in big trouble. Under the circumstances, they needed someone to stay put and guide the team towards the competitive total. Jadhav did exactly that. Bringing all his domestic experience into play, he compiled a priceless half-century, which helped India recover to post a competitive total.
Despite Jadhav’s efforts, Zimbabwe would have fancied their chances of chasing down 139. They got a brisk start as well, and were placed at a healthy 57 for 1 in ninth over. But, India’s bowlers fought back well to apply the pressure back on the hosts. Dhawal Kulkarni played a key role sending back the well-set Vusi Sibanda and the dangerous Malcolm Waller to bring India right back in the game. Axar Patel was excellent with his control yet again, and also picked up the big wicket of Hamilton Masakadza. And, while Yuzvendra Chahal was slightly expensive, he did send back Peter Moor.
In the end, it all came back to the last over, off which Zimbabwe needed 21 runs. The game seemed completely in India’s grasp, but this is where Barinder Sran’s inexperience came to the fore. He allowed Timycen Maruma to get under the ball, and smash the first deliver for a six. That put a lot of pressure back on the bowler, which resulted in a wide, and more dangerously, a four off a no ball. The match seemed to be slipping out of India’s grasp, but Sran somehow managed to hold on, and help India lift the series. The runs scored by Jadhav definitely aiding the team’s cause.
Zimbabwe will have mixed feelings about the match. They were impressive no doubt, and highly competitive. But, it is equally true that they were in with a genuine chance to win the match more than once. At one stage, they had India on the mat at 27 for 3, and then again at 93 for 5. But, they could provide the finishing touches. In the chase then, Sibanda and Moor got into the 20s, but neither of them carried on, thus leaving the team will too much to do in the end. So near yet so far, it was for Zimbabwe
--By A Cricket Analyst