Choosing to bat, West Indies were restricted to 242 for nine from their allocation of 50 overs, after purposeful bowling from the Zimbabweans had kept a tight rein on their batsmen.
Ramnaresh Sarwan hit three fours and two sixes in the top score of 55 from 60 balls and shared an important stand of 69 for the fourth wicket with Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who scored 46.
Chris Gayle scored 49 from 73 balls that included seven boundaries in an opening stand of 70 with Runako Morton, who got 16.
Dwayne Smith typically entertained the crowd with three sixes in 30 off 18 balls to beef up the West Indies' total towards the end.
Tawanda Mupariwa, one of two changes to the Zimbabwe team, which lost the opening match by five wickets here on Saturday, was the most successful Zimbabwe bowler with three wickets for 46 runs.
Gayle and Morton shackled by Zimbabwe's new-ball pair of Edward Rainsford and Blessing Mahwire on another helpful surface.
It was not until the 16th over that the tension eased when Gayle struck three successive boundaries off Justice Chibhabha in an over that cost 13.
Zimbabwe however, put the pressure right back on the home team, when they claimed three wickets in the space of 24 balls.
Mupariwa made the breakthrough, when he had Morton caught behind nibbling at a rising delivery outside the off-stump in the 18th over.
Mahwire added the wicket of Gayle in the 21st over, when the left-handed opener was caught behind driving at a pitched up delivery outside the off-stump.
Prosper Utseya then struck in his first over, when Denesh Ramdin was adjudged lbw for four playing down the wrong line to a well-pitched off-break to leave West Indies 85 for three.
Sarwan and Chanderpaul got West Indies back on track with their partnership.
Sarwan delighted the crowd with some exciting strokes, including a couple of leg-side sixes off Utseya.
The wickets of Sarwan and Brian Lara - both to Mupariwa - in the space of 14 balls slowed the West Indies' progress.
Sarwan was caught deep mid-wicket looking for a third six in the 38th over and Lara was caught at fine leg for five trying to scoop a delivery over the head of the fielder to leave West Indies 162 for five after 40 overs.
It was then left to Chanderpaul and Smith to batter the Zimbabwean attack in the closing stages and pave the way for a competitive total.
The series continues on May 6 and 7 at Georgetown's Bourda Oval when the two teams contest back-to-back matches.
They will also play the first Limited-overs International under lights in the Caribbean at Gros Islet's Beausejour Stadium on May 10 before the series ends on May 13 and 14 at Port of Spain's Queen's Park Oval with a double-header.
Fall of wickets: 1-70, 2-80, 3-85, 4-154, 5-162, 6-183, 7-218, 8-230, 9-238
Bowling: Rainsford 10-1-32-1