New Zealand won the first T20I, beating India by 21 runs in Ranchi.
Having had much their own way in the ODI series, this was a reminder for the home side that New Zealand are opponents to be respected.
Home captain Hardik Pandya later admitted that his side had misread the pitch, which ended up slower and offering more assistance to the spinners than expected.
For the Kiwis, it was a welcome morale booster.
India lined up as expected with Shubman Gill retaining his place in the team, meaning that there was no room for Prithvi Shaw, who was hoping for an international recall after an impressive spell in domestic cricket.
New Zealand played with an extra spinner in the form of Ish Sodhi with Mitchell Santner captaining the side in place of Tom Latham who had led them in the ODIs.
India won the toss and decided to field first which proved to be a misjudgement.
The New Zealand top order had struggled in the ODIs, but they were better here with Finn Allen giving them a fast start making 35 off 23 balls and sharing an opening stand of 43 with Devon Conway.
Two wickets in five balls from Washington Sundar pegged them back. But Conway, the third highest rated T20I batter, made 52. Including one six he helped to lay the platform for his team.
When Conway fell in the 18th over, it looked like the Kiwis would post a subpar score. However, Daryl Mitchell gave their innings late impetus and he made an unbeaten 59 off just 30 balls, including 5 sixes and 3 fours.
The final over bowled by Arshdeep Singh proved particularly profitable from the tourist perspective with 27 runs coming from it. That proved to have a big influence on the outcome of the match because New Zealand were able to reach 176/6 from their 20 overs.
Sundar was the most successful of the Indian bowlers with 2 – 22. Singh took a wicket but they cost his team 51 runs.
India made a poor start to their reply, due in large part due to New Zealand employing their spinners from the start to restrict the scoring.
Michael Bracewell set the tone by dismissing Ishan Kishan in the second over, and then Rahul Tripathi was out in the next over. When Gill, the man in form, was dismissed by Santner, the home side had slumped to 15/3.
Not for the first time, they looked to Suryakumar Yadav, who has just been named ICC T20I Player of the Year for 2022 to get them out of a hole.
For a time it looked like he was going to come to their rescue again as he and Pandya put on 68 for the fourth wicket. But then both fell in successive overs, Yadav for 47 and Pandya for 21, and India were struggling.
It was left to Sundar to keep whatever faint hopes that they had alive, and he responded with a counter-attacking half century.
However, he could not find anybody able to stay with him for any length of time and the required run rate kept climbing.
Sundar was the last man out of the penultimate ball of the match, but the result had been put beyond doubt by then.
Bracewell, Lockie Ferguson, and Santner all took two wickets apiece, and the captain deserves special praise for conceding just 11 runs from his four overs.
It was the fourth time that New Zealand have defended a sub-200 score in a T20I on Indian soil. That is more than any other visiting side has achieved.
Key Talking Points
India got their team wrong
In retrospect, India got their team wrong and should have picked an extra spinner. Their pave bowlers failed to exercise control and cost their side runs. Not only Singh was culpable, but also Umran Malik who was only given one over, but that went for 16 runs.
Kuldeep Yadav was able to exercise some control in the middle of the innings and Sundar had a fine overall match, but they needed more support.
Mitchell makes the difference
Mitchell won the Player of the Match award and it was deserved because his innings helped tilt the balance of the game.
He was able to turn a modest score into a competitive one, especially on a surface that did not give the expected help to the batters.
What happens now?
The two teams now head to Lucknow on Sunday for the second T20I.
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