India were finally made to bite dust during their 2015 tour of Zimbabwe, even if the occasion came in the very last match of the said tour. The two-time world champions were humbled by 10 runs in the second and final Twenty20 International (T20I) at Harare on Sunday. The spectators at the Harare Sports Club looked every bit happy at the end of the game, even if they were whitewashed in the One-Day International (ODI) series not so long ago. Aside from the fact that the hosts managed to end their long-running losing spell, they managed to beat India at one of their strengths- spin. Amit Banerjee delves on the topic further.
It was becoming too one-sided a tour. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had fielded a second-string side for the proposed Zimbabwe tour, which was finally given the green signal after a lot of deliberations, with the broadcasters and sponsors ultimately emerging victorious. After a brief struggle in the first ODI, India never looked to be in a state of distress. They hardly broke a sweat in the second and third ODIs. The first T20I was even more one-sided for the most part. In the end, the fans from both countries were left wishing for a close match before the conclusion of the tour. It finally happened in the second ODI.
The match started off with a series of firsts. Zimbabwe won the toss for the first time in the series, as was them batting first. Elton Chigumbura was injured for the match, leading to Sikandar Raza becoming the first Zimbabwean captain of Asian origin. In the Indian camp, Harbhajan Singh was rested for the match, leading to Sanju Samson’s maiden international appearance. Things were looking positive for the hosts, and the hopes of a win were never higher. The Zimbabweans put up a batting performance better than what they had put up so far in the series, riding on Chamu Chibhabha’s 67 to set a 146-run target.
Where the Zimbabweans truly foxed the Indians was in the department of spin. After Ajinkya Rahane’s run-out in the third ball of the Indian innings, the avoidance of which could have scripted the innings differently. Robin Uthappa joined forces with Murali Vijay to take India off to a flyer thereafter, taking India to 57 for one in just six over, with the wicketkeeper batsman batting in the 40s by then. India were looking set for a 2-0 series win, helping them maintain their unbeaten record in the tour. SCORECARD: India vs Zimbabwe 2nd ODI at Harare
That however, was not what fate had in store, for it had chosen to smile at the luckless Zimbabweans for once. In came Graeme Cremer into the attack, and changed the course of the match completely. Vijay was the first to depart, getting castled by some fine piece of bowling by the leg-spinner to head back to the pavilion after scoring 13 off 11. Three balls later, it was Manish Pandey’s turn. This time, he was done in by a googly as he was trapped leg-before.
Uthappa’s presence still gave enough hope to the Indians of chasing the target down, but that too vanished a few deliveries later when he popped a return catch to Sean Williams to depart for 42. From 57 for one, India were reduced to 69 for five. Stuart Binny and Sanju Samson attempted to repair the damage with a 36-run sixth wicket stand, but Cremer’s dismissal of Binny proved perhaps to be the final nail in the coffin for the Indians.
While India can state the excuse of not having several of their key players in the squad for Zimbabwe, the collapse at the hands of the opposition spinners does inject some truth in the fact that India’s reputation of being great players of spin is going for a toss in the recent past. The story takes a different arc in the Zimbabwean camp however. The win, however late it may have arrived for them, will serve as a major confidence-booster for them. Besides, their new-found talent in spin may inspire the Southern African nation to take that more seriously, especially for their subcontinent tours. Last, but not the least, Zimbabwe may very well be staring at an able captain in the form of Raza.