Young Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh gave an impressive display of spin bowling as India relied on an all-round display to trounce a hapless Zimbabwe by 54 runs in the first T20 International cricket match in Harare on Friday.
Patel (3/17) and Harbhajan (2/29) ripped through the Zimbabwe batting order as the home side ended at 124/7 while chasing a target of 179 on a slow track at Harare Sports Club to give India a 1-0 lead in the two-match T20I series.
The 21-year-old left-arm spinner Patel, one of the five Indians who made T20 International debut today, and veteran off-spinner Harbhajan virtually ended the match midway into Zimbabwe run chase with quick strikes that left the home side in total disarray.
Earlier, India's top three batsmen of captain Ajinkya Rahane (33), Murali Vijay (34) and Robin Uthappa (39 not out) fired in unison to help the visiting side post a commanding 178 for 5 after electing to bat. The Zimbabweans also helped India's cause as they conceded 25 runs as extras.
Chasing the stiff target, Zimbabwe struggled for runs with the Indians bowling a tight line and length with pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar opening the bowling in impressive manner by giving just four runs in his first spell of two overs.
After showing some promise, the Zimbabweans just fizzled out as they failed to negotiate the guiles of Patel and Harbhajan.
Chamu Chibhabha (23) was the first to go in the ninth over off the bowling of Harbhajan who snapped the opening stand of 55. Chibhabha went for a big shot but failed to beat Manish Pandey near the boundary ropes.
Next over, Patel dismissed two Zimbabwe batsmen in the space of five balls to send the home side run chase into disarray. While Hamilton Masakadza (28) was caught at short fine leg by Kedar Jadhav, captain Elton Chigumbura (1) was clean-bowled off a gem of delivery from Patel.
Harbhajan returned to dismiss another Zimbabwe batsman --Charles Coventry (10) -- in the 11th over to virtually end Zimbabwe's run chase. By then, the home side had been reduced to 68/4 with the asking rate soaring above 14 an over.
Teams: India: Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Murali Vijay, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey, Kedar Jadhav, Stuart Binny, Axar Patel, Harbhajan Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohit Sharma, Sandeep Sharma.
Zimbabwe: Elton Chigumbura (captain), Hamilton Masakadza, Chamu Chibhabha, Craig Ervine, Charles Coventry†, Sikandar Raza, Prosper Utseya, Graeme Cremer, Neville Madziva, Chris Mpofu, Taurai Muzarabani.