Harare: Handed a rude shock in the opening game, the Indian youngsters will have to raise their game in the second Twenty20 International to stay afloat in the three-match series against minnows Zimbabwe, in Harare.
MS Dhoni. Pic/AFP
It was the first time that the young team was tested on the tour and it faltered on key moments to suffer an unexpected loss. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni failed to get his team over the line in the last over but equally culpable were the batsmen who got out at key moments after getting starts.
Manish Pandey made a fluent 48 but like debutant Mandeep Singh, he would have loved to carry on and take the side through. With Dhoni at the other end and India needing eight off the final over, Axar Patel got out to a loose shot to make life tougher the visitors.
The second string squad was picked to test the team's bench strength and the youngsters had the ideal platform to perform in the back of a resounding series win in the preceding three ODIs. However, they wilted under pressure when challenged for the first time in the series.
While the batsmen did not show composure required at the highest level, the bowlers, who were given opportunity for the first time on the tour, disappointed. Credit should go to Zimbabwe for their performance after a humiliating loss in ODIs but they were allowed by the erring Indian bowlers to post 170.
All-rounder Rishi Dhawan, representing India for the first time since the Australia tour and making his T20 International debut, put up an ordinary effort leaking 42 runs in four overs.
Pressure was also on pacer Jaydev Unadkat, who was in India colours for the first time in almost three years. Making his debut in the format, Unadkat was not consistent with his line and length and paid the price for it.
It remains to be seen whether he gets another game after ending with figures of 0/43 or Barinder Sran and Dhawal Kulkarni come back to bowl with the new ball, pushing Dhawan out of the eleven too.
Leggie Yuzvendra Chahal, who impressed in ODIs, also had an off day and he would be aiming to bounce back strongly. Ahead of the must-win game, Dhoni warned his men to not repeat the same mistakes in the remaining games.
Though spinner Jayant Yadav was the only one to not get an opportunity in the 16-man squad, Dhoni is expected to get back to his full strength bowling attack. India did not see the loss coming after a cakewalk in the ODIs, giving Zimbabwe a much needed morale boost to press for another win.
Their captain Graeme Cremer insisted that more was expected from his team, that pulled itself out of a hole with an all-round effort. It looked they were staring another batting collapse midway into the innings before Elton Chigumbura came up with a whirlwind 56 off 24 balls to set up a competitive total.
Zimbabwe batting was an abject failure in ODIs but in the shortest format, they showed they had the resources to put up a fight. The top order got some form going and so did the likes of Malcolm Waller in the middle order.
The bowlers also chipped in with timely blows with the stand-out effort coming form 24-year-old pacer Neville Madziva, who stopped Dhoni and co from getting eight runs in the final
His last over was praised by Dhoni himself, albeit raising more questions on the famous finishing skills of the Indian captain. Taurai Muzarabani and Chamu Chibhabha also bowled tidy spells to keep the Indians under check.
The win was surely a surprise, generating some excitement in the otherwise drab contest. Another fighting contest will be welcome but beating a wounded India could prove to be a too big a task for the home team.
India: MS Dhoni (Captain), KL Rahul, Faiz Fazal, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair, Ambati Rayudu, Rishi Dhawan, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Jasprit Bumrah, Barinder Sran, Mandeep Singh, Kedar Jadhav, Jaydev Unadkat, Yuzvendra Chahal.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (Captain), Vusimuzi Sibanda, Sikandar Raza, Elton Chigumbura, Hamilton Masakadza, Wellington Masakadza, Tendai Chatara, Chamu Chibhaha, Donald
Tiripano, Malcolm Waller, Peter Moor, Tapiwa Mufudza, Tinotenda Mutombodzi, Richmond Mutumbami (wk), Taurai Muzarabani, Brian Chari, Neville Madziva, Timycen Maruma.
Match starts 4:30pm