cricket:image:1442868 [900x506]
cricket:image:1442868 [900x506] (Credit: Associated Press)

Report Dahl returns to Phils on minor league deal

India 182 for 4 (Gill 66, Gaikwad 49, Jaiswal 36, Raza 2-24, Muzarabani 2-25) beat Zimbabwe 159 for 6 (Myers 65*, Madande 37, Washington 3-15, Avesh 2-39) by 23 runs

Shubman Gill played the classic anchor. Ruturaj Gaikwad the disruptor at No. 4. And Washington Sundar proved simple offspin can be sexy.

At the end of it all, India took a big step towards winning the five-match T20I series against Zimbabwe with a 23-run win in the third match to take a 2-1 lead.

Gill scored a 49-ball 66 opening the batting and Yashasvi Jaiswal, his partner, slammed 36 from 27, setting the platform for a 28-ball 49 from Gaikwad that helped India to 182 for 4. Washington then picked up three wickets, including two in his first over, for 15 runs to quell chances of a Zimbabwe fightback.

Zimbabwe managed to delay the inevitable thanks to a fantastic half-century from Dion Myers, his first in T20Is, and his 77-run partnership with Clive Madande.

Gill and Jaiswal reunite at the top

The return of three players from the T20 World Cup-winning squad forced a change in India's tactics. Jaiswal has been the incumbent opener - whenever India have played without Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli - and he slotted back at the top with Gill. As a result, Abhishek Sharma, fresh from his maiden international century in the second T20I, and Gaikwad had to play out of positions at Nos. 3 and 4.

Jaiswal started with two fours and a six in the opening over. Gill did the same in the second over. India were 29 in two overs, and then 49 in four. Then Blessing Muzarabani found his length and the pace to bowl on a two-paced surface. Sikandar Raza's spin was tough to put away. And from 54 for 0 in five overs, India crawled to 67 for 0 at the end of eight. Which brought about Jaiswal's dismissal - miscuing the switch hit to backward point.

Gill anchors, Gaikwad bludgeons

Abhishek had a brief stay in the middle, which brought together Gill and Gaikwad in the 11th over. Wessly Madhevere's only over - the 13th of the innings - allowed India to change gears. Gill first hit the legspinner for a six before Gaikwad hit him for a six and a four. Gaikwad regularly used his feet even against pace to put Tendai Chatara and later Richard Ngarava, who replaced Luke Jongwe in the Zimbabwe XI, off their lengths.

Gill sped up to bring up a 36-ball fifty, his first as India's T20I captain. However, despite a long batting order - Washington was carded in at No. 8 - India were in danger of finishing with a below-par score when they were 130 for 2 after 16. Which is when an 18-run over from Raza - featuring four byes and a six each from Gill and Gaikwad - lifted them. But the extra bounce on the surface consumed Gill in the 18th, when he looked to loft Muzarabani over the covers but miscued it to Raza tracking back. Gaikwad hit a few lusty blows but fell one short of fifty.

India ended on 182, not below par at all. Two half-century partnerships - 67 off 50 between Gill and Jaiswal and 72 off 44 between Gill and Gaikwad - had taken India there, and Jaiswal, at the innings break, felt it was enough.

What aided them were a few missed half-chances, two dropped catches - one each of Jaiswal and Gaikwad - and a plethora of misfields.

Fielding lets Zimbabwe down again

When Chatara failed to get a hand to Jaiswal's pull in the opening over, little did Zimbabwe know it was a sign of things to come. In the next over, Myers was a bit late in reacting to a top edge from Gill and the ball landed short of him running in from midwicket. Jaiswal and Gaikwad received reprieves. A few half-chances were missed. The mishaps on the field were mostly regulation efforts, which meant India raced away to a fast start despite facing 22 dots in the powerplay. Overall, India were beneficiaries of 31 runs according to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data. The eventual win margin was just 23.

Zimbabwe lose their way, and find it again too late

Tadiwanashe Marumani replaced Innocent Kaia, who had a split webbing, at the top of the order and started enterprisingly. He belted a couple of fours in the opening over bowled by Khaleel Ahmed - in for Mukesh Kumar - but fell trying to repeat the dose in his next over. From the other end, Avesh Khan first dismissed Madhevere, who patted one to short cover, and then Brian Bennett, thanks to a spectacular flying catch from Ravi Bishnoi at backward point.

When Raza swung across the line to hole out to deep square-leg off Washington's second ball, the writing seemed to be on the wall. It got better for India - and worse for Zimbabwe - when substitute fielder Riyan Parag took a sharp catch at slip to dismiss Johnathan Campbell four balls later off Washington.

But Myers and Madande had other plans. India's decision to accommodate all of their T20 World Cup returnees left them thin on bowling resources. As a result, Abhishek and Shivam Dube had to combine to bowl four overs. Myers and Madande didn't let them settle and hit a combined six fours and two sixes off them. Those four overs cost India 50. Thanks to the early inroads, it did not cost them on the day.