A fifth-wicket partnership of 144 between Kedar Jadhav, who made a maiden hundred, and Manish Pandey, who made 71 on debut, revived India to 276 for 5 after another top-order stumble had left them in trouble at 82 for 4. Led by Chamu Chibhabha's 82, Zimbabwe built a base for themselves at 150 for 3 in the 35th over, but lost their last seven wickets for 43 runs to hand India a 3-0 series sweep.
Yet again, Zimbabwe's seamers let the opposition get away after putting them under considerable pressure in the first half of the innings. Jadhav and Pandey quietly batted themselves in and got through the difficult period against the seamers before targeting legspinner Graeme Cremer to build momentum. Zimbabwe's death bowling fell apart once more. Despite Pandey's exit in the 47th over, Jadhav and Stuart Binny helped India take 106 off the last ten.
The India openers had played within themselves to put together a partnership of 112 in the second ODI, but in the third, Ajinkya Rahane and M Vijay both went for their shots from the start. Both were gone by the start of the eighth over, and within eight deliveries of each other, to Neville Madziva. Rahane mishit a drive to cover and Vijay edged an attempted drive to the keeper.
It was not an easy pitch for strokeplay, with the ball appearing to stop on the batsmen at times. There was also some consistent wobble and seam for Zimbabwe's medium-pacers, whose nagging good length made it harder to drive.
The new-ball bowlers were followed by the seam-up mediums of Hamilton Masakadza and Prosper Utseya, both of whom bowled ten disciplined overs each on the trot for a combined return of 2 for 72.
Robin Uthappa and Manoj Tiwary tried to rebuild but it was slow going, especially for Tiwary, who managed 10 off 33 before getting a leading edge off Prosper Utseya's second delivery.
Three overs later, India slipped to 82 for 4 as Uthappa went in similar fashion, eyeing the leg side and forcing a leading edge to mid-off. Uthappa had looked in fine touch during his 31, the highlight being a charge down the track to lift Chibhabha cleanly for four over mid-off.
Boundaries were hard to come by for Pandey and Jadhav initially against Masakadza and Utseya. Masakadza was getting the ball to seam and bounce outside off, and beat the outside edge a few times.
Pandey was mature enough to deny himself in that period, and when he was beaten, he did not attempt a rash shot to release the pressure. His first boundary came only off his 31st delivery, a straight six off Masakadza. Jadhav was a bit more adventurous with his dabs and paddles, but he batted largely safely too.
The introduction of Cremer in the 34th over finally injected some life into the innings for the Indians. He bowled short often, and was duly taken for runs. Cremer should have had Jadhav, on 41, in the 41st over when the batsman was surprised by a bouncing googly and spooned it up to point, but Elton Chigumbura put down a sitter.
Zimbabwe were to pay dearly for that lapse. Jadhav moved to his fifty off 64 balls, and took only 22 more to zoom to his century. Refusing to learn, Zimbabwe kept feeding him width outside off at the death, and he kept powering them square for boundaries.
Three successive fours off Donald Tiripano took him into the 90s in the 48th over. He remained off strike for the next one as Binny went after Chibhabha, but swung Madziva over deep backward square for six to bring up the landmark off the penultimate ball of the innings.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar began India's defence with a superb spell of six overs for 12 runs. He was unlucky not to break through as he made the ball climb and hold its line.
It was mostly Chibhabha for Zimbabwe. Severe on width outside off, he added 70 for the second wicket with Regis Chakabva and 53 for the fourth with Richmond Mutumbami. Between those stands, Chigumbura was trapped in front for 10 by Vijay for his maiden ODI wicket, off his first ball of the match.
Whenever Zimbabwe gained some steam, they would lose a wicket. They had a decent chance with 127 needed from 91 and seven wickets standing, but Binny hastened the collapse, sending back Mutumbami and Chibhabha in successive overs. Chibhabha had been eyeing the pick-up shot over midwicket but could not time it well and Jadhav took a diving catch running in from the deep.
Flighting the ball generously, Harbhajan Singh took two in two and Zimbabwe were bowled out in the 43rd over for 193.