India capitalizes on Zimbabwe’s sloppy fielding to take a 2-1 series lead


HARARE – India secured a 2-1 lead in the five-match T20I series against Zimbabwe, winning the third match by 23 runs at Harare Sports Club. Despite a career-best 65 not out from Dion Myers, Zimbabwe fell short of the 183-run target set by India. 

Image: Zimbabwe Cricket

The return of three players from India's T20 World Cup-winning squad sparked a tactical shift. Jaiswal, the regular opener in the absence of Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli, returned to his position, partnering with Gill at the top. 

This pushed Abhishek Sharma, who had recently scored a maiden international century, and Gaikwad down to unfamiliar positions at numbers three and four. 

Jaiswal and Gill ignited the innings with a blistering start, scoring 29 runs in the first two overs. Jaiswal smashed two fours and a six in the opening over, followed by a similar onslaught from Gill in the second. 

India reached 49 after four overs, but the momentum shifted as Blessing Muzarabani found his length and pace on the two-paced pitch. Sikandar Raza's spin proved challenging to negotiate, slowing India's progress. 

From a promising 54 for 0 in five overs, India's run rate dipped, reaching just 67 for 0 after eight. Jaiswal, attempting a switch hit, miscued the shot to backward point and was dismissed, ending India's early dominance. 

India ultimately finished on 182-4, a respectable total largely driven by Shubman Gill's top score of 66. Two half-century partnerships—67 off 50 between Gill and Jaiswal, and 72 off 44 between Gill and Gaikwad—fuelled their strong finish. Jaiswal felt confident about the score at the innings break.

Several missed opportunities, including two dropped catches—one each for Jaiswal and Gaikwad—and a series of misfields, significantly aided India's cause. 

Chatara's failure to get a hand to Jaiswal's pull shot in the opening over set the tone for the match. In the next over, Myers reacted sluggishly to a top edge from Gill, allowing the ball to fall short as he ran in from midwicket. 

These were not isolated incidents: several other half-chances were missed. These fielding lapses, primarily on regulation efforts, allowed India to build a quick start despite facing 22 dot balls in the powerplay. 

ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data revealed that India benefitted from 31 runs due to these errors, significantly influencing the final margin of victory. 

Tadiwanashe Marumani, replacing the injured Innocent Kaia at the top of the order, made an enterprising start, hitting a couple of fours in the opening over bowled by Khaleel Ahmed, who had replaced Mukesh Kumar. 

However, his attempt to repeat the feat in the next over led to his dismissal. At the other end, Avesh Khan dismissed Madhevere with a soft shot to short cover, followed by a spectacular flying catch by Ravi Bishnoi at backward point to remove Brian Bennett. 

Raza's attempt to swing across the line ended with a catch at deep square-leg off Washington's second ball, further tilting the game in India's favor. 

Just four balls later, substitute fielder Riyan Parag took a sharp catch at slip to dismiss Johnathan Campbell, also off Washington, making it a difficult situation for Zimbabwe.

Myers and Madande displayed resilience, however. India's decision to field all their T20 World Cup returnees left them short on bowling options, forcing Abhishek and Shivam Dube to share four overs. 

Myers and Madande capitalized on this, hitting a combined six fours and two sixes against them. These four overs cost India 50 runs, but the early breakthroughs prevented them from being decisive in the outcome. 

In the post-match conference, captain Sikandar Raza acknowledged the team's fielding struggles, "It's the fielding again. We are very proud of it, but the wheels are coming off again. We gave away 20 runs extra. We still have problems at the top, but we are backing the boys. I know they are trying, and once they do, we will come good again."

With this win, India has taken a 2-1 lead in the series, one win away from securing the title.

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