NAGPUR (India) • New Zealand's spinners became unlikely heroes on Tuesday, leading their side to a stunning 47-run victory over favourites India in the World Twenty20 opening Group 2 match.
The Kiwis stumbled to 126 for seven after electing to bat first, but their slow bowlers bamboozled India, who managed just 79 runs in 18.1 overs - their lowest-ever score in T20 cricket on home soil.
The spin trio of Mitchell Santner, Nathan McCullum and Ish Sodhi combined to keep New Zealand's unbeaten T20 record against India intact - the Kiwis have now won five of six meetings.
Man of the match Santner (4-11) bowled exceptionally well on a slow track to register the best bowling figures by a New Zealander in the shortest form of the sport.
"There was a bit of spin out there, they bowled well to keep us to 120, that was below par, but we got stuck in and I'm delighted with the win," he said.
India, the firm title favourites, were never in the chase after losing their openers early and, with the exception of captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni (30 in 30 balls) and Virat Kohli (23 in 27), no one had any answers to the inspired Kiwi bowling attack.
Kohli offered some resistance on a slow track, but the introduction of Sodhi spelt the end for the star batsman.
Chasing a delivery from the leg-spinner, Kohli was caught behind as the packed stadium was stunned into silence.
Dhoni then tried hard to dig India out of trouble but his valiant innings made little difference in the end.
"I thought we restricted them to a good total (but) the batting let us down, the shot selection kept putting pressure on the batsmen coming in and there was no partnership in the middle," said Dhoni.
Earlier, hard-hitting Corey Anderson hit an uncharacteristically slow 34-run knock to help New Zealand improve their plight after being reduced to 61 for four.
A dramatic first over from off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin saw Martin Guptill smash a six on the first ball of the match only to be dismissed on the next delivery, setting the tone for an unexpectedly low-scoring encounter.
The spin-fast combination of Ashwin and Ashish Nehra deployed by Dhoni worked in India's favour, as the Kiwi innings was left stuttering with skipper Kane Williamson departing for eight.
Anderson, whose 42-ball stay included just three boundaries, then stuck around with Ross Taylor and Santner to counter the Indian bowlers. India, the inaugural champions in 2007 who are determined to become the first team to win the World T20 title twice, did not put a foot wrong and backed their bowlers' efforts with some clean fielding that included two run-outs.
Luke Ronchi's unbeaten 11-ball 21 gave some respect to the total, which proved more than enough to make an immediate impression in the sixth edition of the tournament, which ends on April 3 with the final in Kolkata.