Harare - Kedar Jadhav's brisk half-century proved the difference as India held off a spirited Zimbabwe in the third Twenty20 international at Harare Sports Club on Monday to clinch the series 2-1.
In a low-scoring game that went down to the final ball, the value of Jadhav's 58 from 42 balls on a slow pitch was clear when none of the Zimbabweans managed more than 28 and India shaded the game by just three runs.
Jadhav arrived at the crease with the tourists struggling on 27 for three after they had lost the toss and been asked to bat for the first time on the tour.
Zimbabwe had blown hot and cold throughout the series, winning the first game in thrilling fashion before losing the second by 10 wickets, but it was soon apparent that they were up for the decider.
However, Jadhav added 49 for the fourth wicket with Ambati Rayudu, who made 20, and went on to reach his fifty in just 38 balls.
Donald Tiripano struck back for Zimbabwe at the death as he removed Jadhav and Mahendra Singh Dhoni to finish with impressive figures of 3 for 20 from four overs, but Axar Patel's 20 not out from 11 balls gave India a final tally of 138 for six.
"The wicket was dry and the ball was keeping a bit low so run-making wasn't that easy, so credit to Rayudu and Kedar for the way they consolidated the innings," said India coach Sanjay Bangar.
"I thought 138 was a good score on that wicket and our bowlers would be able to defend that."
Vusi Sibanda marked his return from injury with a boundary-laden 28, and with Zimbabwe's middle order all chipping in the hosts took the game down to the last over.
Seamer Barinder Sran was tasked with defending 21 runs from the final six balls, and looked to have bottled it when Timycen Maruma hit him for six and then four, with the second boundary coming off a no-ball.
However Sran allowed only a single from the next three deliveries, leaving Elton Chigumbura needing eight runs from the final two balls.
The Zimbabwe allrounder struck the first ball for four, but could not repeat the feat off the final delivery and so Zimbabwe finished on 135 for six.
"When I hit that six, that's when I started to believe that we could do it," said Maruma.
"Unfortunately those two balls that I missed thereafter were where we lost the game. But it was a good challenge and a good game."
India had left more than a dozen of their first-choice players at home, which offered an opportunity for less experienced players to impress.
Dhoni felt that the fast bowlers had acquitted themselves well on the short tour, which also saw India sweep the one-day series 3-0.
"The fast bowling department is somewhere that we need a good pool of players, and now we can say that we have 10 to 12 such bowlers for the limited overs formats," Dhoni said.