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.
India held their nerve to beat Zimbabwe by three runs in the third T20 international to win the series 2-1.
Chasing a target of 139, Zimbabwe needed 21 off the last over bowled by Sran.
Marumi who had clubbed Bumrah for a six in the previous over smashed a six and four to keep Zimbabwe in the hunt.
With eight needed off the last two balls, Chigumbura got a boundary off a thick edge to third man but failed to clear Chahal who took a superb catch at midoff in the final ball to deny Zimbabwe who finished on 135 for six.
Marumi remained unbeaten on a 13-ball 23.
Elton Chigumbura c Chahal b Sran 16 (16b 2x4)
Waller departs attempting to cut Kulkarni over third man. Zim 104-5, 17.1 overs.
Malcolm Waller c Bumrah b Kulkarni 10 (17b)
Chahal has the last laugh as Moor perishes. Zim 86-4, 13.5 overs.
Peter Moor c Mandeep Singh b Chahal 26 (21b 3x6)
Big over for Zimbabwe as Moor slams a couple of sixes off Chahal over midwicket and extra cover.
Moor whacks Chahal for a six. Zim 71-3, 12 overs.
A bowling change results in Kulkarni having Sibanda trapped leg before. Zim 60-3, 10.3 overs.
V Sibanda lbw b Kulkarni 28 (23b 5x4)
Patel strikes removing Masakadza attempting a sweep and trapped leg before. Zim 57-2, 8.5 overs.
Hamilton Masakadza lbw b Patel 15 (21b 2x4)
Chahal comes into the attack and Sibanda pulls him to the fence first ball. Zim 51-1, 8 overs.
Sibanda sizzles cracking three boundaries off Kulkarni. Zim 32-1, 4 overs.
Chahal takes a blinder at short square to dismiss Chibhabha. Zim 17-1, 2.4 overs.
Chamu Chibhabha c Chahal b Sran 5 (10b 1x4)
Madziva goes for 16 in the final over with Patel slamming a six as India finish on a healthy 138-6 after a poor start.
Kedar Jadhav led India's fightback after they had slumped to 27-3 with a solid knock of 58 which contained seven boundaries and a six.
Rayudu (20) shared in a 49-run stand for the fourth wicket with Jadhav while Patel weighed in with a useful 20 at the end.
Tiripano claimed three for 20.
Jadhav's valiant knock comes to an end. Ind 122-6, 19 overs.
Kedar Jadhav c Chigumbura b Tiripano 58 (42b 7x4 1x6)
Jadhav gives Chatara the charge and swings him for a six to bring up the 100 of the innings. Ind 111-5, 18 overs.
Dhoni is gone being castled and being hit by a bail in his eye to add insult to injury. Ind 93-5, 16.2 overs.
MS Dhoni b Tiripano 9 (13b 1x4)
Cremer breaks the stand as Rayudu fails to clear Chigumbura at long off. Ind 76-4, 12.5 overs.
Ambati Rayudu c Chigumbura b Cremer 20 (26b 1x4)
Jadhav gets a couple of boundaries off Cremer as India rebuild. Ind 49-3, 9 overs.
Another blow for India as Pandey is out for duck beaten by a direct hit from Chigumbura. Ind 27-3, 4.4 overs.
Manish Pandey run out 0 (1b)
Madziva has struck a deadly blow rattling the stumps of the in-form Rahul who swings and misses. Ind 27-3, 4.3 overs.
Lokesh Rahul b Madziva 22 (20b 3x4 1x6)
Maruma takes a superb catch to dismiss Mandeep. Ind 20-1, 3.1 overs.
Mandeep Singh c Maruma b Tiripano 4 (6b)
Rahul hits the first boundary of the match with an uppish cover drive off Chatara followed by a six back over the bowler's head. Ind 20-0, 3 overs.
Chatara begins with a maiden to Rahul. Ind 0-0, 1 over.
Zimbabwe won the toss and opted to bowl first in the third and final T20 in Harare on Wednesday.
The series is poised at 1-1.
Zimbabwe: CJ Chibhabha, H Masakadza, PJ Moor, V Sibanda, T Maruma, MN Waller, E Chigumbura, AG Cremer, N Madziva, DT Tiripano, TL Chatara
India: KL Rahul, Mandeep Singh, AT Rayudu, MK Pandey, KM Jadhav, MS Dhoni, AR Patel, DS Kulkarni, JJ Bumrah, BB Sran, YS Chahal