After a 3-0 series whitewash in the ODIs, the Indian team continued to showcase their dominance against a hapless Zimbabwe team with an emphatic 54-run victory in the first T20 International at the Harare Sports Club on 17 July.
Young Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh gave an impressive display of spin bowling as India relied on an all-round display to overpower the hosts. Patel (3/17) and Harbhajan (2/29) ripped through the Zimbabwe batting order as the home side ended at 124/7, well behind their target of 179 on a slow track.
Earlier, India's top three batsmen -- captain Ajinkya Rahane (33), Murali Vijay (34) and Robin Uthappa (39 not out) -- fired in unison to help the visiting side post a commanding 178 for 5 after electing to bat. The Zimbabweans also helped India's cause as they conceded 25 runs as extras.
Chasing the stiff target, Zimbabwe struggled for runs with the Indians bowling a tight line and length, with pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar, opening the bowling in impressive manner by giving just four runs in his first spell of two overs.
Hamilton Masakadza (28) and Chamu Chibhabha (23) added 55 runs for the first wicket, but the hosts eventually succumbed to the ever-increasing asking rate.
Earlier in the day, India posted 178 for 5 after winning the toss and deciding to bat first.
Axar, Harbhajan spin a web around Zimbabwe
The two Indian spinners Axar Patel and Harbhajan Singh were hard to miss during their stellar show against Zimbabwe. Patel, who took three wickets while conceding just 17 runs, was the pick of the Indian bowlers. On the other hand, veteran spinner Harbhajan, also made his presence felt with figures of 2/29 in his spell of four overs.
The 21-year-old left-arm spinner Patel, one of the five Indians who made their T20 International debut today, and veteran off-spinner Harbhajan, virtually ended the match midway into Zimbabwe run-chase with quick strikes that left the home side in total disarray.
Harbhajan gave the breakthrough to India after snapping Zimbabwe's opening stand of 55 runs with the dismissal of Chamu Chibhabha in the ninth over. Patel too got into action after dismissing two Zimbabwe batsmen in the space of five balls to send the home side's run-chase into disarray.
In the 11th over, the Turbanator returned to dismiss Charles Coventry to virtually end Zimbabwe's run-chase. Patel got his third wicket in Sikandar Raza who was cleaned up by the Indian spinner in the 16th over.
Robin Uthappa comes to the party
The 29-year-old cricketer, who struggled during the recently-concluded ODI series against Zimbabwe, emerged as the top run-scorer in his knock of 39 runs for India. He batted sensibly and held the innings together after coming one down in the seventh over.
He shared 45 runs for the third wicket with Manish Pandey (19) to accelerate the Indian innings towards the end after openers Rahane and Vijay gave a good start at the top.
At a time when the Indians managed to score just 31 runs in five overs from the 10th to 14th over, Uthappa played with a mature head to steer the Indian innings till the very end. Uthappa hit just two fours in his 35-ball innings that paved way for India's 54-run win.