Zimbabwe avoided the ignominy of another innings defeat as they stretched India in the first session of day 3 before losing the second Test by 10 wickets, at the Harare Sports Club on Wednesday. The victory gave India a 2-0 series win.
Andy Blignaut scored an aggressive 83 as Zimbabwe scored 223 in the second innings and made India bat again. He was well-supported by Hamilton Masakadza (71). The two made India pay for complacency with a 116-run seventh-wicket partnership.
Irfan Pathan grabbed his second five-wicket haul of the Test, five for 67, to win the man of the match award. He was also adjudged the man of the series, rewarded for the 21 wickets he scalped in both Tests.
India knocked off the required 18 runs in 3.2 overs to register their first overseas series triumph in 19 years. They won the first game in Bulawayo by an innings and 90 runs.
Morning session: (151 runs, 28 overs, 2 wickets)
Zaheer Khan struck in the first over of the morning, claiming the important wicket of Heath Streak.
The left-arm pacer, bowling round the wicket, had the ball seam away from the batsman to induce a thick edge to VVS Laxman, at second slip. (42-5).
Charles Coventry, who hit an entertaining 37 from 32 balls in the first innings, opened his account with a cover drive for four. Irfan Pathan was generous to let him off the hook as he failed to collect the ball at the non-striker's end and run Covenrty out.
The right-handed batsman again played a bright and brief innings of 25. With both the Indian pacers attacking outside off, Coventry struck some meaty blows through the covers when given enough width. He scored 17 runs through the area, and the remaining eight came behind the wicket, on the off-side.
Coventry hit six boundaries in his 24-ball knock and was out trying to play Pathan over mid-on. The slower one swung into the batsman, and, early into the shot, he got a leading edge to Sourav Ganguly. (85-6).
India's body language in the morning had been complacent and reflected in their slack ground fielding.
The catching suffered a major embarrassment in a Zaheer over when catches went down one, two, three of successive deliveries.
Andy Blignaut gave very good catching practice to the Indian slip cordon, angling the ball straight to them but the visitors didn't measure up to the task. First, substitute Dheeraj Jadhav let go off an easy chance, then Virender Sehwag took time to get down to the ball at third slip.
Even Blignaut refused to give up on the Indian fielders and nicked the third one in a row, but Dinesh Karthick jumped in towards Rahul Dravid at first slip and grassed it.
The left-hander continued unperturbed; his aggressive intent not dented one bit, and drove Zaheer to the boundary. He rubbed it in with a six off Kumble over the extra cover fence in the next over.
The Zimbabwe batsmen punished India for an ordinary show on the field. Hamilton Masakadza and Blignaut unleashed a flurry of boundaries to record Zimbabwe's highest run-rate in a session in the series.
Masakadza's innings lacked the drama of Blignaut's but was as effective. He brought up his third Test fifty by hoisting Kumble over mid-wicket.
Blignaut notched his half-century in 57 balls. The left-hander welcomed Ganguly into the attack with a six over long-off in the last over before lunch to bring up the 100-run partnership for the seventh wicket.
Zimbabwe's resistance of the morning gave way as Irfan Pathan grabbed two quick wickets after lunch.
He first had Masakadza leg before wicket for 71. The ball pitched on middle stump and swung in as Masakadza played down the wrong line. The ball seemed to move down the leg-stump but umpire Aleem Dar upheld a loud appeal from Pathan. (201-7)
Two balls later, Kieth Dabengwa edged the ball to wicketkeeper Karthick to give Pathan his sixth five-wicket haul in Tests. It was his second five-for of the match. (201-8).
Anil Kumble, who had looked blunt through the day as the pitch did not offer any turn or uneven bounce, snapped Blessing Mahwire with a wrong 'un. The decision by Harper, in favour of the bowler, was also close, as the ball seemed to drift down leg. (202-9).
Andy Blignaut, who with plenty of help from the Indian fielders was now in feisty form, was not done yet. As Zimbabwe overtook India's lead, he batted with newfound freedom and licked Kumble for 15 runs in the 53rd over. After an attempted reverse sweep came unstuck, he sent Kumble over the long-on boundary. Another flighted delivery from the leg-spinner and Blignaut made room and swung hard to send the ball flying over mid-wicket and out of the ground.
India finally ended a sordid affair in the field as Zaheer had Mwayenga trapped in front of the stumps. (223-10).
Blignaut remained unbeaten on 84 from 93 balls, including eight fours and four sixes.
Zaheer was the only Indian bowler who looked keen on a dead third day. India were helped by four dubious leg before wicket decisions and they went a long way in knocking down Zimbabwe for 223.
India second innings:
It was almost befitting that the winning runs didn't come off the bat of either of the Indian openers.
Blignaut, who had sprayed the ball all over in the first innings too, sent the ball wide off leg stump screaming into the boundary to give India the final runs in the third over.
With only 17 runs required for victory, Virender Sehwag didn't need an incentive to go for the bowling and smashed three boundaries in an 11-ball innings of 14.
Gautam Gambhir was unbeaten on one as India completed a 10-wicket victory.