Raza excels as Zimbabwe stun world champions India in the first T20I match


HARARE – In a thrilling display of resilience, Zimbabwe triumphed over world champions India by 13 runs in the first T20I match at Harare Sports Club, taking a 1-0 lead in the series. This was India's first match since their T20 World Cup victory.

Image: Zimbabwe Cricket

Zimbabwe, restricted to 115/9 in their 20 overs, roared back to bowl out India for 102 in 19.5 overs, defending their lowest-ever total against India. The victory marked Zimbabwe's first T20I win over India since 2016 and only their third in nine encounters. 

Facing the younger, experimental side of an India that recently was crowned the ICC T20 World Cup champions, Zimbabwe had a point to prove going into the first T20I match of the series. The Chevrons were armed only with the hope of showing the world that despite some previously disappointing performances – some that even cost the country an opportunity to be at T20 World Cup – they still have it in them to produce memorable moments in cricketing. 

And with a new coach, Justin Sammons, as well as the new coaching staff, the Chevrons stepped into the game with the mentality of being equals with India. Both squads had youthful players, and that alone sufficed to furnish the guarantee that this would be an exhilarating match.

Zimbabwe were not dissuaded by the fact of facing the brightest crop of bright talent from India, some who have set good names for themselves in the prestigious Indian Premier League (IPL). Zimbabwe took it down to the wire, scrapping their way to take a 1-0 series lead. 

After winning the toss, India opted to bowl first, but Zimbabwe's batting innings was hampered by a career-best 4 for 13 from Ravi Bishnoi and a tidy 2 for 11 from Washington Sundar. However, Zimbabwe's bowlers turned the tables in the second innings, delivering a dominant performance that left India reeling.

The turning point came when Sikandar Raza dismissed Shubman Gill, sparking a dramatic collapse. India, who had lost four wickets within the first five overs, found themselves struggling at 47 for 6 in the 10.2 overs. Gill's wicket, dismissed by a clever carrom ball from Raza, proved crucial. 

Despite a brief respite from Avesh Khan and Washington Sundar, Zimbabwe's bowlers maintained their pressure. Avesh's dismissal reignited Zimbabwe's hopes, and Raza claimed his third wicket, leaving India facing an insurmountable task.

In a tense final over, Tendai Chatara bowled a flawless 20th over, conceding just two runs before claiming Washington's wicket, sparking wild celebrations in Harare. 

Earlier the day in Zimbabwe's batting innings Ravi Bishnoi, with his deceptive variations, caused early trouble for Zimbabwe, striking twice in his first two overs. He bowled Brian Bennett for a quickfire 22, a classic bail-trimmer, before sending Wessly Madhevere packing with a wrong 'un that crashed into off stump. 

Despite the early setbacks, Sikandar Raza provided some much-needed resistance, smashing a delightful six off Avesh Khan, and adding a valuable 23-run partnership with Dion Myers for the fourth wicket. 

However, the usual collapse feared soon arrived. A rush of blood from Raza, who holed out to deep midwicket, triggered a catastrophic loss of wickets. 

Johnathan Campbell, in a moment of miscommunication, was run out first ball. Washington Sundar, exploiting the momentum shift, then claimed two wickets in two balls, dismissing Myers and Wellington Masakadza. 

Luke Jongwe survived the hat-trick ball, but fell in the next over to Bishnoi, who went on to claim his fourth wicket by removing Blessing Muzarabani. Zimbabwe, having been comfortably placed at 74 for 3, lost six wickets for a mere 16 runs in 23 balls.

Sikandar Raza was named Player of the Match. Speaking to reporters after the match, he said that it's a matter of taking it "one day at a time", attributing the win to the bowlers' excellence. 

"I feel really happy. Gotta take one day at a time. Job's not done, series not over. I don't think it's a 116 wicket, it's not a wicket where you get all out for 103. So, credit to the bowlers," Raza said. 

He admitted a target of 115 was below par for the Chevrons, extending his gratitude to the fans for helping keep the game alive. 

"115 [runs] wasn't many. I told not to care about the result, just wanted to show fight and give the crowd what they wanted. We were brilliant in the field. Not perfect, but that shows there's room for improvement. We knew the fans will be there encouraging us. We felt like we were a team of 12, again."

Shubman Gill, India's skipper, said, "We bowled well, but we let ourselves down in the field. Looked a bit rusty. We wanted to take time, enjoy the batting, but didn't pan out that way. Halfway down, we'd lost five wickets. 

"Would've been best if I'd stayed till the end. Disappointed with the way I got out and how it panned out. Washi kept hopes up. When you have to chase 115 and your No. 10 bat is the one you want winning you the game, you know something's gone wrong."

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