Shubman Gill's maiden ODI hundred outshined Sikandar Raza's hard-fought sixth ODI century as India survived a scare to win the third and final ODI by 13 runs and complete a 3-0 series sweep of Zimbabwe here on Monday.
After Gill's top-class 130 off 97 balls, laced with 15 fours and a six took India to 289-8, Zimbabwe were down and out in the run chase at 169-7. In came Raza and he slammed 115 off 95 balls, including nine fours and three sixes, to bring Zimbabwe on the verge of a huge victory.
Raza also shared a 104-run stand off 79 balls with Brad Evans (28), who had earlier taken his maiden five-for in ODI cricket, 5-54 in ten overs, as a boisterous home crowd cheered them on.
With 33 needed off last three overs, India took out last three wickets, including Evans and Raza in successive overs to complete a narrow victory as Zimbabwe just fell short of crossing the line. For the visitors, Avesh Khan took 3/66 while Kuldeep Yadav, Axar Patel and Deepak Chahar took two wickets each and Shardul Thakur had a scalp against his name.
Raza entered the crease from the 17th over and took his time to settle in before taking two fours off Patel. He had luck on his side, surviving an lbw appeal and later on, a stumping chance off Kuldeep. Raza welcomed Chahar into the attack by smacking him over deep mid-wicket for a huge six. From there, he relied on strike rotation till getting three fours, including on a no-ball and free-hit, to take 20 runs off Thakur in the 39th over.
With 95 needed off last ten over, Raza hammered crisp fours off Avesh and dispatched Chahar for a flat inside-out six over extra cover. With a single through cover off Thakur, Raza got his third century in last six matches to keep Zimbabwe alive in run-chase. He went on to take Avesh for four and six more as a famous victory loomed for Zimbabwe.
Avesh made a comeback by trapping Evans lbw with a slower ball. In the next over, Thakur delivered the killer punch by having Raza caught for 115, as Gill timed his forward dive at long-on to perfection for completing a low catch. Avesh then sealed India's win with a yorker to rattle Nyauchi's stumps.
Chahar got India first breakthrough by trapping Innocent Kaia lbw after getting to change the decision on review. Takudzwanashe Kaitano walked off the field due to a left leg issue, immediately after getting a top-edge for six off Avesh.
Williams and Tony Munyonga, stitched a stand of 46 runs for the second wicket to get Zimbabwe on track before the former was trapped lbw off Patel through a quick ball which kept low. In the next over, Munyonga miscued to mid-off off Avesh as Zimbabwe lost two wickets in as many balls.
Patel then took a sharp catch off his own bowling to dismiss captain Regis Chakabva while Kaitano was stumped easily off Kuldeep Yadav. At the end of 33rd over, when Ryan Burl fell after heaving straight to mid-on off Chahar, Zimbabwe needed 141 runs off 17 overs. Raza, in company of Jongwe and then Evans, led the chase single-handedly, only for the efforts to go in vain.
Earlier, captain KL Rahul and his deputy Shikhar Dhawan put on 64 runs for the opening stand. After the duo fell, Gill and Ishan Kishan (50 off 64 balls, six fours) put on 140 for the third wicket to give India a good total on a used pitch. Zimbabwe then pulled back in the last ten overs, picking six wickets while conceding 79 runs.
Right from his first boundary, an elegant straight drive down the ground with full face of the bat off Evans, Gill exhibited timing and placement in his shots which was the hallmark of his 97-ball stay at the crease. On a pitch where other batters took time to settle in, Gill was head and shoulders above everyone, something which was conveyed from his smile after reaching his first ODI hundred off 82 balls.
He regularly threaded through the gap at cover with his drives looking both solid and lovely. He even brought out the scoops, sweeps and his favourite short-arm jabs to be the standout batter for India in their innings. He was calm, composed and looked in absolute control to register the highest ODI score by an Indian batter in Zimbabwe, going past Sachin Tendulkar's unbeaten 127 in 1998 at Bulawayo.
Gill's serene show rubbed on Kishan, who cleared leg-side boundaries with ease to get his second ODI fifty. The duo brought up their 50-run partnership off 62 deliveries and reached their century stand off just 101 balls.
Just when it looked like India would get 300, Kishan was run-out and Deepak Hooda fell in quick succession. Post reaching his century, Gill and Sanju Samson hit some huge boundaries before the latter picked out deep square leg to perfection.
With Patel falling cheaply, Gill hit two more fours to up the scoring rate. But in order to loft off Evans, his bottom hand took off and was caught at long off. Evans completed his maiden five-for in ODIs when he deceived Thakur with a slower ball and had him caught at cover as 33 runs came off the last four overs.
Brief Scores: India 289/8 in 50 overs (Shubman Gill 130, Ishan Kishan 50; Brad Evans 5/54, Victory Nyauchi 1/48) beat Zimbabwe 276 all out in 49.3 overs (Sikandar Raza 115, Sean Williams 45; Avesh Khan 3/66, Axar Patel 2/30) by 13 runs