Axar Patel made his presence felt with the ball as India brushed aside Zimbabwe with a 54-run victory in the opening Twenty20 international in Harare.
India beat Zimbabwe by 54 runs. The Harare jinx continues for the hosts, this is their ninth straight loss in a T20I match #ZIMvIND
— Cricbuzz (@cricbuzz) July 17, 2015
Having posted 178 for five in their innings, thanks partly to an unbeaten 39 from Robin Uthappa, India then put themselves firmly in control with Patel claiming three wickets and Harbhajan Singh adding two more to restrict the hosts to 124 for seven in reply.
Victory in the second T20 on Sunday would wrap up a series win for India to follow on from their 3-0 whitewash of Zimbabwe in the recent one-day internationals.
Openers Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay got India off to a flyer, with the pair putting on 64 in the first seven overs – racking up seven boundaries and a six between them.
However, the deadly accuracy of Sikandar Raza saw Vijay run out for 34, from 19 balls, and Rahane joined him in the pavilion 14 deliveries later after steering Graeme Cremer to Hamilton Masakadza at point for 33.
Uthappa was less belligerent than his team-mates and it was his 35-ball knock which held the innings together, with Manish Pandey (19), Kedar Jadhav (9) and Stuart Binny (11) playing bit-part roles while a late unbeaten cameo of eight from three deliveries by Harbhajan also contributed.
It was nevertheless a modest target for Zimbabwe to chase and an opening partnership of 55 between Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha appeared to set them up nicely until the latter was removed by Harbhajan for 23.
However, it was a devastating spell of three wickets in two overs – instigated by Patel – which swung the match firmly in India’s favour. The 21-year-old left armer accounted for Masakadza (28) and Elton Chigumbura (one) in the space of five balls, while Harbhajan soon added the scalp of Charles Coventry for 10.
The runs quickly dried up thereafter for Zimbabwe, with Craig Ervine (two), Raza (10) – Patel’s third victim – and Cremer (nine) all failing to make their mark with the bat, leaving unbeaten eighth-wicket pair Prosper Utseya and Neville Madziva with too much to do.
Know more about Sport360 Application