New Zealand 212 for 4 (Munro 72, Seifert 43, Kuldeep 2-26) beat India 208 for 6 (Vijay 43, Rohit 38, Mitchell 2-27) by four runs
Colin Munro's blazing half-century and Tim Southee's last over to defend 15 runs helped New Zealand seal the T20I series 2-1 with a four-run victory in the decider at Seddon Park. The defeat also meant India faced their first series loss on their long tour of Southern Hemisphere.
Chasing 213, India needed a steep 68 off 28 at one stage with only four wickets in hand. Lusty and regular blows from Dinesh Karthik and Krunal Pandya, with a six each off Daryl Mitchell and debutant Blair Tickner off successive overs made the equation 48 from 18. Krunal then smashed Southee for a six and two fours off successive balls that meant India needed 30 from 12. The duo went on to hit a six each in the penultimate over by Scott Kuggeleijn to bring the equation down to 16 required off the final over.
Karthik took two off the first ball but then consumed a dot ball and even refused Krunal strike after hitting the ball to long-on. With 14 needed off four balls and the pressure mounting on Karthik, he only managed a single on the next ball. Southee's lengths conceded only a single to Krunal too, and a six from Karthik on the last ball was not enough for India.
After being put in, Munro's 40-ball 72 and Tim Seifert's 43 off 25 set the platform for a daunting total. While India dismissed Munro and Kane Williamson in back-to-back overs, New Zealand had by then motored to 150 in 14.4 overs. Colin de Grandhomme ensured the hosts didn't lose the momentum with a stroke-filled 16-ball 30, with Mitchell and Ross Taylor applying the finishing touches.
India lost Shikhar Dhawan in the first over itself, but Rohit Sharma and Vijay Shankar put the chase on track by adding 75 off 46 balls for the second wicket. Vijay played some sublime shots, including successive sixes off Ish Sodhi, before falling for a 28-ball 43.
Rishabh Pant kept the hopes alive for a while, but in the space of 19 balls, India slipped from 121 for 2 to 145 for 6. Karthik and Krunal took India closer but couldn't take them to victory.
The Munro-Seifert show
Munro and Seifert provided New Zealand with a blazing start of 80 in just 7.4 overs. Munro showed his intentions from the first ball he faced, by smashing Bhuvneshwar Kumar over long-on for a six. Seifert, at the other end, continued his good form and smashed Khaleel Ahmed for two fours and a six in the fourth over.
Seeing the onslaught, Rohit brought Krunal into the attack in the sixth over but the Man of the Match of the last game was taken for 20 in his first over, including two sixes and a four, as New Zealand looted 66 from Powerplay.
The stand was broken when Seifert was ruled out stumped by Chris Brown, the third umpire, in yet another questionable decision in this series. Kuldeep Yadav drew the batsman forward and beat the outside edge with a tossed up googly. MS Dhoni whipped the bails off and replays showed Seifert might have had some part of his back foot behind the line before the bails came off. However, the third umpire thought differently and didn't take much time to rule the batsman out.
That, however, didn't impact Munro much. While Kuldeep troubled both him and Williamson with his wrong'uns, runs kept flowing from the other end. Munro hit another six and four off Krunal in the 11th over of the innings to take the side past 100. India weren't helped by their sloppy fielding either. In one Hardik Pandya over, Khaleel dropped Munro, Vijay fumbled to concede a boundary, and as if to add insult to injury, Munro smashed the next ball for a six. Munro eventually fell to Kuldeep, going for his sixth six of the innings, but by then New Zealand were all set for a massive total.
Pant blazes away
Rohit and Vijay had taken India to 81 for 2 in 8.3 overs but they were still behind the required rate. Pant, who had scored an unbeaten 40 in the last game, carried on from where he had left. The first three legitimate deliveries he faced were tonked for a four and two sixes. Three balls later he smashed Sodhi for another six and walloped to 23 off just six balls, taking India to 108 for 2 at the halfway mark.
This took the pressure off Rohit, but with Pant managing just five runs off the next five balls, frustration started creeping in. Eventually, Pant ended up hitting a full toss from Tickner straight to Williamson at midwicket.
New Zealand pull it back
Despite losing Pant, India would still have backed themselves to chase down 85 from the last seven overs given their long batting line-up. Hardik started off with a first-ball six, and followed it up with a four and six off successive Mitchell deliveries in the next over. However, two balls later, Mitchell got Rohit, who was anchoring the chase. Hardik himself fell in the next over, while Dhoni lasted just four balls for two runs and nicked Mitchell behind the stumps.
Karthik and Krunal took the game to the last over but Southee had the final say.
Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo