Ranchi: Devon Conway and Daryl Mitchell conjured up fluent and fiery half-centuries before the spinners choked the hosts as New Zealand outplayed India by 21 runs in the opening T20I to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series here on Friday.
Asked to take first strike, opener Conway continued his purple patch with a 35-ball 52, while Mitchell smashed a 30-ball unbeaten 59, which included a last-over thrashing of Arshdeep Singh for 27 runs, to power the Black Caps to a challenging 176 for six.
The Kiwi bowlers, led by Mitchell Santner (2/11) and Michael Bracewell (2/31), then spun a web around the home batters, restricting India to 155 for 9 in 20 overs.
India had a disastrous start to their chase with both Ishan Kishan (4) and Rahul Tripathi (0) sent back to the pavilion by the third over.
While Ishan was bamboozled by Bracewell, pacer Jacob Duffy (1/27) induced a fine edge off Rahul's blade. Shubman Gill (7) too perished soon after being deceived by Santner as India slumped to 15 for three.
Suryakumar Yadav (47), however, looked in good touch as he picked up two boundaries before picking one off his hips for a six off Lockie Ferguson (1/22).
Santner then bowled a maiden as India reached 33 for three in the powerplay overs.
With the pitch offering grip and turn, New Zealand spinners controlled the proceedings keeping it flat and mixing the length even as Hardik unleashed a drive over extra cover to ease the pressure.
Suryakumar too brought out his range of sweep shots to keep the scoreboard ticking. When Blair Tickner was introduced, he played a square cut and then sent another one through backward point for successive fours as India reached 74 for 3 in 10 overs.
Leg-spinner Ish Sodhi was then sent inside out over extra cover for a maximum but New Zealand struck twice in the next five balls to remove both the set batters.
While Surya chipped one off Sodhi to Finn Allen at long-on, Hardik was caught and bowled by Bracewell as it all went downhill after that with India slipping to 85 for five.
Deepak Hooda smacked one over the rope before being stumped. Santner then ran out Shivam Mavi. Ferguson bowled a wicket maiden, removing Kuldeep.
Washington Sundar smashed a fighting 28-ball 50 but it was too late.
Earlier, Indian bowlers struggled to get their line and length, allowing New Zealand to get off to a good start.
Allen (35) smashed Hardik for successive boundaries, while a juicy half-volley from Arshdeep was hit straight to the boundary.
Conway, who had scored 138 in the third ODI in Indore, also punished the left-arm pacer for a widish ball as New Zealand put up 23 in two overs.
Sundar, however, got a lot of purchase from the wicket and soon saw the back of Allen and Mark Chapman (0) in the space of five deliveries to reduce New Zealand to 43 for 2.
Conway, however, kept it going with two fours and a six off Umran Malik, who bled 16 runs in his only over.
Hardik brought himself back and tried to mix his bowling, using more cutters and slower deliveries as New Zealand reached 79 for 2 in 10 overs.
Conway used the slog sweep and his feet to pick up boundaries off Kuldeep and Hooda as New Zealand crossed the 100-mark in the 13th over.
Kuldeep then struck with a googly as Glenn Phillips went for a slog, only to be holed out by Surya at deep midwicket.
Daryl Mitchell then joined Conway and, after surviving two video referrals for a caught behind and an LBW, blasted Hardik for two maximums.
Conway, on the other hand, completed his fifty in the 16th over but was sent packing soon by Arshdeep with Hooda taking the catch at long-off.
Ishan Kishan then ran out new man Bracewell (1) and Shivam Mavi had Santner (7) caught by Rahul Tripathi as India seemed to have pulled things back.
However, Arshdeep conceded 27 runs in the last over, with Mitchell clobbering him for three sixes and a four.
New Zealand: 176 for 6 in 20 overs (Daryl Mitchell 59 not out, Devon Conway 52; Washington Sundar 2/22).
India: 155 for 9 in 20 overs (S Yadav 47, W Sundar 50; Mitchell Santner 2/11).