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PLUCKY ZIMBABWE CHASE HISTORIC SERIES WIN

The first T20I saw a return of the vibrant Zimbabwe the world loves to watch © Associated Press

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Zimbabwe made a few changes to their team for the first T20I against India, most notably the inclusion of pluck, spirit and ebullience.

Spirit was brought to proceedings when Hamilton Masakadza and Chamu Chibhabha punished India’s opening bowlers for missing their lengths. It intervened again when Elton Chigumbura, put a pair of golden ducks behind him to cream seven sixes in a dazzling half-century. That knock took Zimbabwe from a flagging 111 for 5 to a competitive 170.

Pluck was a steady presence throughout the match, never more so than when Neville Madziva nailed wide yorkers and slower balls to defend seven in the last over. Ebullience came to the fore thereafter as the home team’s players and fans revelled. Zimbabwe will hope that Messrs P, S and E retain their place in the team for a long time to come.

Of immediate interest is the second T20I in Harare, which will present the hosts a chance to secure a historic series win. Never before have Zimbabwe won a T20I series of two or more matches, although they did beat West Indies in a one-off T20I in Port of Spain six years ago. A win now would offer much needed cheer to their fans and send out a message to other teams thinking of sending a second-string side to Zimbabwe.

For India, the wake-up call is timely – perhaps even welcome. Things seemed to be coming too easily to them in the ODI leg of the tour. On Saturday, however, they were put under serious pressure for the first time. They were reminded that sloppy mistakes can be very costly, even against unfancied oppositions. How will India’s young side respond, now that they know they are in a genuine contest, with the series on the line?

Form guide

Zimbabwe: WLWWW (last five matches, most recent first)
India: LLWWW

In the spotlight

Chigumbura was Zimbabwe’s star with the bat, but Hamilton Masakadza’s brief fireworks at the top constitute a promising sign for the team. Masakadza was sacked as captain prior to India’s visit, and went on to have a quiet ODI series. Zimbabwe’s most accomplished batsman hitting form could be vital if Vusi Sibanda cannot recover from the injury that kept him out of the first T20I.

Yuzvendra Chahal had a disappointing T20I debut, offering the batsmen too much room to swing their arms and bowling the no-ball that precipitated Chigumbura’s assault. Nevertheless, his willingness to flight the ball in search of wickets and a potent googly make him a threat to batsmen. It also makes for compelling viewing.

Team news

Sibanda has joined Craig Ervine and Sean Williams on Zimbabwe’s injury list. It is unclear if Richmond Mutumbami, who had to retire hurt after taking a blow to the rib-cage area on Saturday, will be available either. This may leave the door open for Peter Moor, who would be a straight swap considering he is a specialist wicketkeeper, or Timycen Maruma

Zimbabwe (probable): 1 Hamilton Masakadza, 2 Chamu Chibhabha, 3 Richmond Mutumbami/Timycen Maruma/Peter Moor, 4 Sikandar Raza, 5 Malcolm Waller (wk), 6 Elton Chigumbura, 7 Tinotenda Mutombodzi, 8 Graeme Cremer (capt), 9 Neville Madziva, 10 Taurai Muzarabani, 11 Donald Tiripano

India fielded five debutants in the first T20I, including Mandeep Singh, Rishi Dhawan and Jaydev Unadkat, who had their first outing of the tour. Unadkat and Dhawan bowled poorly; whether Dhoni chooses to give them another chance or brings Barinder Sran and Dhawal Kulkarni back is open to debate.

India (probable): 1 KL Rahul, 2 Mandeep Singh, 3 Ambati Rayudu, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Kedar Jadhav, 6 MS Dhoni (capt & wk), 7 Axar Patel, 8 Rishi Dhawan/Dhawal Kulkarni, 9 Yuzvendra Chahal, 10 Jasprit Bumrah, 11 Jaydev Unadkat/Barinder Sran

Pitch and conditions

The pitch is expected to be batting friendly again at Harare Sports Club. The size of the outfield should test the fielders and reward batsmen who run hard between the wickets.

Stats and trivia

Only once have Zimbabwe won consecutive T20I matches against Full Member oppositions – against Bangladesh in Khulna this January.
Since India made their debut in T20 cricket, only twice have they packed in five debutants into an XI – against Zimbabwe on Saturday and against Zimbabwe a year ago.

Sirish Raghavan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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