India’s young bowling unit put on a collective effort to restrict the hosts to 135/8 after wicketkeeper-batsman Kedar Jadhav’s half century pushed the visitors to 138/6 in their stipulated 20 overs.
Despite losing opener Chamu Chibhabha (5) cheaply, Zimbabwe got off to a positive start with Hamilton Masakadza (15) and Vusi Sibanda (28) putting on 40 runs for the second wicket to take Zimbabwe past the 50-run mark in the eighth over.
With the hosts in full flow, left-arm spinner Axar Patel managed to break the partnership by foxing Masakadza plumb in front while medium pacer Dhawal Kulkarni packed back Sibanda soon after. Sibanda blasted five fours in his 23-ball knock.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Peter Moor (26) and Malcolm Waller (10) then tried to stabilise the innings with a 26-run stand for the fourth wicket. Moor was at his attacking best during his 21-ball knock as he hammered leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal for three sixes before falling to the same bowler.
Moor’s dismissal brought in former skipper Elton Chigumbura, who added 18 runs with Waller to bring up the 100 in the 17th over before Kulkarni dismissed Waller.
With Zimbabwe needing 35 off 17 balls, young Timycen Maruma (23) joined Chigumbura and the duo almost took the match away from the Indians with a 31-run seventh wicket stand before left-arm seamer Barinder Sran managed to restrict them.
For the visitors, medium pacers Sran and Kulkarni took two wickets each while Patel and Chahal got one apiece.
Earlier, Jadhav’s 42-ball 58 propelled India from a tricky situation after the visitors were sent in to bat. Under pressure after a batting collapse of sorts, the Maharashtra wicketkeeper-batsman resurrected the innings with a defiant knock.
Fresh from a 10-wicket mauling of the hosts in the second match, India found themselves in a spot of bother after losing in-form opener Mandeep Singh (4) cheaply while Lokesh Rahul (22) and Manish Pandey departed off consecutive balls.
Rahul’s 20-ball knock was laced with three fours and a six before the right-hander was bowled by Neville Madziva to reduce India to 27/2 while Pandey joined him the next ball, thanks to a brilliant throw at the stumps from Elton Chigumbura.
The failure of the top order provided ample opportunity to the middle order batsmen comprising Ambati Rayudu, skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Jadhav.
Rayudu, who had a successful run in the One-Day International (ODI) series, scored a 26-ball 20 but more importantly chipped in with Jadhav for a 49-run stand for the fourth wicket. The duo took India past the 50-run mark in the 10th over.
But Dhoni’s form with the willow continued to desert him with the Ranchi stumper falling for a 13-ball nine.
Jadhav then paired with left-arm spinner Axar Patel (18) to put on 29 runs for the sixth wicket as India reached the triple figures in the 18th over.
In his attempt to accelerate the scoring, Jadhav who hammered Tendai Chatara for two consecutive fours and a six fell just after reaching his half-century. His knock was laced with seven boundaries and a six.
Patel, who struck a six off the penultimate ball of the innings, added 16 runs with Dhawal Kulkarni (1) for the seventh wicket to take India to some sort of respectability.
For Zimbabwe, medium pacer Donald Tiripano was the pick of the bowlers with three scalps while Madziva and skipper Graeme Cremer chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Sran was adjudged the man-of-the-series for his six wickets in the series while Jadhav bagged the man-of-the-match award for his defiant half century.