After Zimbabwe temporarily raised home spirits with victory in the opening Twenty20 international, India returned to business as usual to level the series and grab the momentum going into Wednesday’s decider in Harare. India had steamrolled its host to win all three One-Day Internationals between the sides and it was the same story in a crushing 10-wicket win over 20 overs on Monday.
Barinder Sran recorded the second best figures for a debutante in the history of T20 international cricket, with 4 for 10, while fellow young bowler Jasprit Bumrah almost matched his teammate with three wickets at the expense of just 11 runs. By the end of 20 overs Zimbabwe had put just 99 runs on the board for the loss of nine wickets. India’s batsman, in contrast, had little problem sealing the victory. Indeed, not a single wicket was lost as openers Kannaur Lokesh Rahul and Mandeep Singh combined to get over the line with 41 balls still remaining.
Mandeep got 52 of those runs for his first T20I half-century in just his second match. But the 24-year-old explained that the need to save the series as well as impress the Indian selectors in a tour that has provided an opportunity for plenty of newcomers put a significant weight on his shoulders before going into bat.
“I had a sleepless night before the match, things like pressure of winning a match or the series play on your mind, and also the fact that the selectors are watching you,” he said, according to the Indian Express. “Call it pressure or nervousness, whatever you want. But when you go in to bat, it becomes a little easier, at least for me. At that time, I just thought, the target is 100, how do I achieve that.
“We were thinking to focus on our process rather than thinking too much about the result. Obviously, we want to win the series, but if we always think about winning then it will be like building up pressure. So we were trying to focus on the process.”
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was less than pleased by his experimental side, and especially the middle-order batsman, in an opening defeat in the T20 series. Given the aim of this tour – to find players who can compete for starting roles in a full-strength side in the future – Dhoni and the selectors may well be hoping for a more competitive match on Wednesday than Zimbabwe offered up last time out.
For that to happen, Zimbabwe will have to provide a final flourish to end a tour that has provided plenty of challenges. Down in the doldrums in international cricket after early exits from both last year’s 50-over World Cup and this year’s World Twenty20, Zimbabwe gave its frustrated supporters temporary relief with an opening win in the T20 series, only to fail spectacularly in match two. And coach Makhaya Ntini did not hold back in his criticism of his batsmen.
“Shot selection, it's one of the things that me and Zulu [assistant coach, Lance Klusener are trying to correct and put in them,” he said, reports The Times of India. “You don't win a game over one shot. You don't score a 100 over one shot. If someone gets out before you, you are supposed to be the one that takes charge of the game and correct the mistake that the other one has made.”
There is still plenty to play for, however. Victory on Wednesday would give Zimbabwe its first ever win in a T20 series of two games or more.
Match Time: 7 a.m. EDT
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