Harare: Zimbabwe ended a run of disappointing defeats with a morale-boosting win over India by 10 runs in the second Twenty20 international at Harare Sports Club yesterday to earn a share of the series.
After Chamu Chibhabha hit a career-best 67 to steer Zimbabwe to 145 for seven, an improved fielding performance under stand-in captain Sikandar Raza Butt allowed Zimbabwe to limit India to 135 for nine.
The victory was a much-needed shot in the arm for the home side, coming less than 24 hours after Prosper Utseya’s letter alleging racism against Zimbabwe Cricket managing director Alistair Campbell was made public.
Utseya, though, despite this retained his place in the team.
Zimbabwe had lost all three one-day internationals to India as well as the first Twenty20 game, but looked re-energised under the leadership of Raza, who took the reins in the place of the injured Elton Chigumbura.
“We didn’t care what the news was,” Raza said of the Utseya letter.
“All we wanted to do was just go out there and prove a point, and that is that we can win a game.
“We were just competing for far too long, and it’s time that comes to an end. It’s time we start winning.”
With off-spinner Harbhajan Singh sitting the game out so that Sanju Samson could make his international debut, Chibhabha enjoyed more time against the seamers and never got bogged down.
The right-hander’s attractive innings came of 51 balls and included nine fours, but nobody else in the Zimbabwe side could manage more than fellow opener Hamilton Masakadza’s 19, leaving India with what appeared to be a moderate chase.
But driven on by Raza’s energy, Zimbabwe produced their best fielding performance in years, inflicting two sharp run-outs and taking several stunning catches.
Robin Uthappa hit nine fours in a 53-run stand for the second wicket with Murali Vijay to give India a runaway start to their chase, but Vijay’s dismissal sparked a collapse in which the tourists lost four wickets for 12 runs in three overs.
Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer claimed three crucial wickets, including two in his first over, before finishing with figures of three for 18 in four overs.
“We were 57 for one after six overs, but thereafter we lost three or four wickets continuously and from there the pressure built on us,” India captain Ajinkya Rahane said.
“We couldn’t build that one partnership to get us through. We accept that we didn’t bat well.”
When all-rounder Stuart Binny was brilliantly caught in the outfield by a diving Chibhabha to depart for 24, the responsibility was left to India’s lower order.
Samson contributed 19, but then holed out in the deep as the Zimbabweans squeezed their opponents right to the end and secured an inspiring win.
Asked what it meant to the team, Raza said: “It’s difficult to put the feelings into words, but the dressing room is jumping with joy.
“Now that we’ve tasted this feeling, I’m sure the boys will want to have it again and again.”