Harare: Team India got their T20 campaign to the worst possible start as they lost their first match to Zimbabwe by 2 runs here on Saturday as even their experienced captain MS Dhoni couldn't script his usual last-ball heroics.
The young Indian side couldn't handle the pressure and succumbed to the resolute Zimbabwe side. Interestingly, India have now lost the last two T20 Internationals they have played against Zimbabwe. It will be after a long time that India will be playing to save a series against Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean players celebrate after winning the T20 International match against India at Harare Sports Club, on Saturday. Pic/AP/PTI
Chasing 171 to win, India started off badly as they lost the wicket of in-form opener KL Rahul off the very first delivery. Pandey top-scored for India with 48 off 35 balls. His innings included one boundary and three sixes.
India were restricted to 168 for six with seamer Neville Madziva bowling a brilliant last over to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
After a 3-0 cakewalk in the preceding ODI series, India were brought down to earth by this embarrassing defeat in which captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni's reputation as a finisher again took a beating.
Needing only 8 off the final over, Dhoni who couldn't connect a single big shot during his sedate 19 off 17 balls.
Surprisingly, Dhoni took single to expose Himachal Pradesh's Rishi Dhawan (1), who simply lacked quality or ability to hit the ball out of the park.
Madziva bowled fuller and a few length deliveries, mixing it up nicely as the few hundreds of Zimbabwean supporters were ecstatic in joy.
IPL regulars like Pandey (48) and Axar Patel (18) did their bit to set it up but when it mattered the most, the little known Zimbabwean boys, none of whom have franchise contract in private leagues did it for their country.
With 79 required off 42 balls, Pandey decided to take on rival captain Graeme Cremer, hitting him for two consecutive sixes as 16 runs came off the 14th over in company of skipper Dhoni. The presence of Dhoni also ensured that singles were converted into doubles.
The skipper got his first boundary in the next over with a nice little bisected between point and gully that went for a boundary. The bowler was Taurai Muzarabani. The 15th over yielded 10 runs.
With Pandey getting a boundary off Neville Madziva's next over that produced 12 runs -- India's victory bid was back on track with 38 runs coming off three overs.
Just when it looked that Pandey will take India home, he mistimed a lofted shot off Muzarabani's bowling to get out for 48 off 35 balls having hit a four and three sixes.
This brought down the equation to 28 off 16 balls. However, Axar Patel hit one of the biggest sixes of the match over long-on to bring the equation down to 21 from 12 balls.
A four and six off penultimate over saw Axar bring down the equation to 8 from the last over which the Indians failed
Earlier, former skipper Elton Chigumbura's late order onslaught guided Zimbabwe to 170/6 in the first T20 International against India at the Harare Sports Club here on Saturday.
Chigumbura blasted seven massive sixes and a four during his unbeaten 26-ball 55, which saw India leaking 59 runs in the last five overs. The right-hander's eighth-wicket stand with Neville Madziva yielded 40 runs as the Indians were searching for cover.
Earlier, the hosts got off to a brisk start after being sent into bat, with openers Hamliton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha putting on 33 runs as the former skipper blasted a 15-ball 25, including two consecutive sixes off medium pacer Jaydev Unadkat to lay the platform.
But the onslaught was soon controlled by young medium pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who packed back Masakadza with a slower off-cutter. Wicketkeeper-batsman Richmond Mutumbami, who came in next, retired after hurting himself while Chibhabha soon joined him at the dug out after scoring a 19-ball 20.
Next in Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller added 47 runs for the fourth wicket to take the hosts near the 100-run mark before Waller was castled by leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal's googly for a 21-ball 30, which included four hits to the fence.
With that wicket, Zimbabwe once again lost the track as Raza (20) ran himself out while left-arm spinner Axar Patel accounted for Tinotenda Mutombodzi (3). Skipper Graeme Cremer (4) also perished cheaply but was Chigumbura's late order heroics saved the hosts from another humiliation.
Faced with the sudden onslaught, the Indian bowlers looked helpless as medium pacers Jaydev Unadkat and Rishi Dhawan leaked 43 and 42 runs respectively. Bumrah was the most successful bowler with two wickets while Dhawan, Patel and Chahal chipped in with one wicket apiece.
India will play second match at the same venue on Monday.