India – 289-8 in 50 overs (Shubman Gill 130, Ishan Kishan 50, Shikhar Dhawan 40; Brad Evans 5/54, Victor Nyauchi 1/48, Luke Jongwe 1/49)
Zimbabwe – 276 all out in 49.3 overs (Sikandar Raza 115, Sean Williams 45, Brad Evans 28; Avesh Khan 3/66, Axar Patel 2/30, Kuldeep Yadav 2/38)
India won by 13 runs
Another wonderful innings by Sikandar Raza, who scored 115, and an excellent all-round performance from Brad Evans took Zimbabwe to the verge of victory against India in the third and final one-day international at Harare Sports Club today.
Unfortunately, with too few of the Zimbabwe players making significant contributions, the task proved too great in the end, and India secured victory in the final over by just 13 runs, with three balls to spare.
Zimbabwe made two changes to their team for this final match, bringing back Richard Ngarava and Tony Munyonga for Tanaka Chivanga and Wessly Madhevere.
For the third time in the series India won the toss, but this time they opted to bat first.
Shikhar Dhawan started the innings aggressively, hitting Ngarava for two fours in the opening over, and followed it with another boundary off Victor Nyauchi.
After that, however, as the bowlers tightened up, he and Lokesh Rahul played themselves in steadily.
They put on 63 runs before Rahul, who never quite looked in touch, played a ball from Evans into his stumps and was out for 30, scored off 46 balls.
Evans also picked up the wicket of Dhawan, who miscued a leg-side stroke off the leading edge and lobbed a catch to Sean Williams at cover – he scored 40 off 68 balls, out at 84 for two after 21 overs.
Shubman Gill was settling in nicely, but Ishan Kishan scored just a single off his first 12 deliveries.
However, once he had played himself in he started opening out in his twenties, and a major partnership developed with Gill, who reached his fifty off 51 balls and then began to plunder the bowling, fours flowing from both partners.
After 42 overs Kishan reached his fifty off 61 balls and the score was 224 for two.
At last the Zimbabweans began to strike back, and the stand was broken as a good return from Munyonga ran out Kishan for his 50 – their partnership had put on 140 in 21 overs.
Later in the over Evans bowled the new man, Deepak Hooda, for one as he tried to drive him.
In the next over, Gill completed an impressive maiden ODI century, scored off 82 balls.
Sanju Samson was now in with him and eager to make some big hits.
He lofted Luke Jongwe for two successive sixes, both powerful drives, but then miscued a leg-hit to be caught by Takudzwanashe Kaitano in the deep for 15, scored off 13 balls – 256 for five after 46 overs.
Axar Patel managed only a single before he drove a catch to Raza at long-off from the bowling of Nyauchi, and then the final over, from Evans, brought two wickets.
Off the first ball Gill’s magnificent innings of 130 came to an end, caught by Innocent Kaia at long-off after scoring 130 off only 97 balls, with a six and 15 fours.
Two balls later his new partner Shardul Thakur skyed a catch to Nyauchi at mid-off for nine, and then three good full deliveries restricted the two new batters, Deepak Chahar and Kuldeep Yadav, to just three runs.
The final score was 289 for eight, probably considerably less than India had been hoping for, and by no means an impossible target for Zimbabwe at their best.
Evans took the bowling honours with five wickets for 54, while Nyauchi and Jongwe both picked up a wicket.
Zimbabwe opened their innings with Kaitano and Kaia.
In the third over Kaia lofted Chahar for four over mid-on, but was beaten by a superb in-swinging yorker next ball, lbw for six with seven runs on the board.
Williams came in next, in the desire to have more experience at the top of the order, and he and Kaitano both took boundaries off the next over from Avesh Khan.
Williams then took on Chahar and hit him for two fine fours in his next over.
Kaitano joined in, and hit Khan for six over the leg boundary, falling over as he did so.
He then retired hurt with his score on 12 and the team 36 for one wicket.
Munyonga joined Williams, and for a while they batted well together, Munyonga at one stage hitting Hooda for two successive fours.
Williams reached 45 off 46 balls, but was then trapped lbw by Patel with the Zimbabwe score on 82.
This led to the unfortunate situation where two set batters fell almost together, as in the next over Munyonga (15) sliced a catch off Khan to mid-off – 84 for three in the 18th over.
Raza and Regis Chakabva had to start again from scratch, but with their experience they handled it well and soon runs were coming again, the team 100 being reached in the 22nd over.
They took the score to 120, but then Chakabva (16) gave a sharp return catch to Patel and four wickets were down.
At this point Kaitano returned, but did not last long as he was stumped for 13, at 122 for five.
Ryan Burl now joined Raza to attempt a partnership that was virtually Zimbabwe’s last hope of victory.
They began building their partnership, with Burl as he tends to do playing himself in before launching his assault.
This time it did not work out for him, though, as with eight to his account he leapt out to attack Chahar, only to send a catch to mid-on.
Zimbabwe were now 145 for six in the 33rd over, and their hopes now gone unless Raza could produce another miracle.
Jongwe fancied himself in the hero’s role, though, and in Chahar’s next over he slashed two successive balls for four and six.
In the following over, however, he was deceived by Yadav’s left-hander’s googly, which he edged to be caught at slip, having made 14 off 13 balls – 169 for seven in the 36th over.
Raza now found the partner he needed in Evans, who played a sensible innings, keeping his end up while scoring when he could.
Raza reached his 50 off 61 balls and then stepped up his assault, hitting Thakur for three successive fours, and the pair ran together superbly.
Raza hit Chahar for a brilliant six over extra cover to reach 97, and Zimbabwe needed 40 runs to win off the final four overs.
Raza reached his third century in the last six ODIs off 88 balls, but only seven runs came off that over from Thakur, leaving 33 needed off the last three.
After Evans took a single, Raza hit Khan for four and six, and then Evans hit another four.
However, off the last ball of that over Evans was given out lbw for a very gallant 28, scored off 36 balls, and Zimbabwe were 273 for eight – 17 runs needed off the last two overs in fading light.
But it was not to be for Zimbabwe, as Raza tried to hit Thakur for six over long-on, did not get quite enough elevation and Gill, running and diving full-length, held a brilliant catch to end a brilliant innings.
Raza was out for 115 off 95 balls, having hit three sixes and nine fours – Zimbabwe were 275 for nine with eight balls left.
It was too much to expect Ngarava and Nyauchi to score the winning runs, however well they batted in the final match against Bangladesh, and Khan ended the match with three balls to spare when he yorked Nyauchi without scoring.
Ngarava was not out with two and the total was 276.
Of the bowlers, Khan took three wickets for 66, while Chahar, Yadav and Patel took two each.
India have won the series by three victories to none, but at least this time Zimbabwe made them fight all the way.