The Zimbabwe-India T20 series has certainly got off to a roaring start after the hosts clinched a thriller against their much-fancied opponents on Saturday to take a 1-0 lead in the 3 match series. It was heartening to see Zimbabwe play some bold cricket right from the outset and take the attack to the Indian bowlers.
Later it was the turn of the Zimbabwean bowlers to defend a decent score which they did quite admirably.
After the shock defeat, India will look to regroup and come back harder in the second game. India would know that it is a precarious situation for them as a defeat here would mean an embarrassing series loss against a no.12 ranked Zimbabwe. MS Dhoni can't really afford a loss like that at this stage of his career when calls for making Virat Kohli the limited overs captain are growing louder.
Be rest assured India will go in with their best possible eleven in the last couple of games and try to win the series 2-1.
Zimbabwe, on the other hand, have tasted blood finally and they would know they are just one victory away from a historical series win and they will play out of their skins to turn this possibility into reality. Their fans who were running out of patience in the ODI series supported their team vociferously during the final moments when Zimbabwe fought tooth and nail to upset the visitors.
It was admirable to see the tenacity they displayed. The fact that their shoulders never dropped even when Manish Pandey and MS Dhoni were going great guns bears testimony to their never say die spirit.
Having said that, India have a stronger side on paper and would back themselves to come good in the last couple of games. It will be a stern test of character for this young team and they would love to deliver the goods for their country.
Match Venue: Harare Sports Club, Harare
Match Date: June 20, 2016
Match Timings: 1630 Hrs IST
If Zimbabwe bat first
Predicted score: 155 and above
Zimbabwe batting first has been a norm so far and we could see the trend continue for this game as well. Chamu Chibhabha and Hamilton Masakadza would look to give their side a flying start. Both stitched together a decent opening stand of 33 in the previous game and Zimbabwe would love at least one of them to bat for a long period of time.
Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller would look to provide some stability in the middle and bat according to the demands of the situation. Both have the ability to up the ante and they would want to lay a solid platform for the likes of Chigumbura to exploit.
Elton Chigumbura, the player of the match on Saturday, was simply outstanding with his power hitting towards the end of the innings. His late blitzkrieg propelled the score to 170 which proved to be just about enough in the end.
Chigumbura impressed one and all with his big hitting in an innings where he hit as many as 7 sixes. It was good to see the former captain rediscovering his mojo after he was criticised for his disastrous outings in the last couple of ODI games.
The bowling was impressive too with the four-pronged pace attack of Tiripano, Madziva, Muzarabani and Chibhabha finally coming to the party. Zimbabwe would hope for an encore from these men if they want to restrict the Indians.
Madziva will be asked to bowl in the death again and his confidence will be sky high after he came out trumps in a one-on-one battle against the best finisher in the world, MS Dhoni. Graeme Cremer and Sikandar Raza will bowl their overs of leg-spin and off-spin respectively and try their best to remain economical.
If India bat first
Predicted score: 170 and above
Expect India to ring in a few changes after the jolt they received on Saturday. On the batting front, expect Mandeep Singh to open the batting with KL Rahul. Mandeep played some crisp strokes on his way to 31 whereas Rahul endured a rare failure getting out for a golden duck. These two would like to give India a stable start without trying too many fancy shots against the new ball bowlers.
Ambati Rayudu should come in at 3 followed by Manish Pandey. Pandey who looked in majestic touch got out against the run of play and allowed Zimbabwe to come back into the game. He wouldn’t like to make the same mistake and would want to make sure he stays there till the end if he is set.
It would be interesting to see if the management decides to bring Karun Nair back in place of Kedar Jadhav. Also, this time around Dhoni should be better prepared and would like to take India home after failing to do so in the previous game. In Dhoni’s defence, he did look rusty as it was his first stint in the middle in this series.
On the bowling front, expect Barinder Sran to replace Jaydev Unadkat. Unadkat leaked runs in the last game and so did Rishi Dhawan. Dhawan should make way for Dhawal Kulkarni. Jasprit Bumrah was the pick of the bowlers and he would want to continue in the same vein. Axar Patel will hold on to his place and so should Yuzvendra Chahal who was a bit expensive.
Probable Winner: India