New Zealand 196 for 2 (Munro 109*, Guptill 45) beat India 156 for 7 (Kohli 65, Dhoni 49, Boult 4-34) by 40 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Colin Munro scorched his way to a 54-ball hundred - his second in T20Is this year - to break India and force the series into a decider in Thiruvananthapuram. He made excellent use of four chances to launch New Zealand to 196 for 2 after they had opted to bat and though Virat Kohli made a vintage 65 in response, the rapidly rising scoreboard pressure was just too much to overcome.
India were forced into a situation where they had to score more than two runs a ball in the last 10 overs. Even the best finishers struggle to maintain such a high pace for such a long time. Hardik Pandya, new to the role, fell for 1 and even an old hand like MS Dhoni never got going. At a stage when the asking rate was nudging 15, he was playing a run-a-ball innings, unable to hit Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi off their plan of attacking his pads.
A better fielding effort could have helped the hosts as well. Bhuvneshwar Kumar dropped a very tough chance at deep midwicket - the kind where a player has to decide whether to take the catch or save a six. Munro was on 36 then. He gave a far simpler opportunity to Shreyas Iyer at long-on but the ball was parried the ball over the rope for six. A wayward throw from Rohit Sharma came to Munro's rescue in the 12th over. And finally, on 79, he was dropped by Chahal running back from cover.
Given so many lives, Munro capitalised. His batting is founded on a simple strategy: stay leg side of the ball and belt it and an easy-paced hit-through-the-line Rajkot pitch was right up his alley. He crunched seven sixes - all in the arc between deep midwicket and long-on. The carnage began when he welcomed Mohammed Siraj into international cricket with a punched four to the backward point boundary. Siraj then switched to slower offcutters, but Munro waited for those and carted a brace of sixes. By then New Zealand had passed their first fifty opening stand in the limited-overs tour of India.
At the other end, Martin Guptill played a Jekyll-and-Hyde innings. He laboured to 14 off 22 balls against pace and hit 31 off 19 balls against spin. Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar had shackled him with seam movement and bounce, but he broke free against Chahal, who oddly bowled into the batsman's hitting arc. Guptill simply planted his front foot down and took the legspinner for three successive boundaries in his first over, including a signature loft that sailed into the sightscreen. Chahal, however, recovered to best Guptill for 45 with a front-of-the-hand flipper. Three overs later, Siraj had Kane Williamson holing out to deep square leg for 12.
But even with six bowlers, India couldn't stop Munro. Axar Patel and Pandya were also lined up and sent over the boundary. Munro reached his first fifty off just 26 balls - after Iyer's drop - and brought up his second off 28 balls. This meant he joined Brendon McCullum - his former captain and someone he still seeks out for advice - in elite company. They, along with Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis, are the only batsmen with two T20I tons.
Munro had a job to do with the ball too. He introduced the world to his knuckle ball and snaffled a skier of a return catch to cut short Iyer's innings at 23. The Mumbai batsman had added 54 for the third wicket with Kohli to give India hope after Trent Boult's double-strike in his first over. The left-arm quick first burst through the gate of Shikhar Dhawan with a nip-backer and four balls later, he coaxed an outside edge from Rohit with extra bounce. When Pandya was fooled by a googly from Ish Sodhi for 1, India were reduced to 67 for 4 in the 10th over.
The early wickets, however, did not bother Kohli. He forayed down the track and drilled Boult over his head. Then he targetted Santner and hit him for three boundaries in five balls, including a shovelled six over long-on. However, as the ball got older, it began to grip in the pitch and that brought Sodhi into the game big time. A peach of a legbreak in the 13th over very nearly had Dhoni stumped for 8.
Spin continued being New Zealand's trump card through the middle overs as they tied down one end which kept piling the pressure on Kohli at the other.
An equation of 85 off 30 balls needed both batsmen to fire but try as Dhoni might, he couldn't find his range. He came down the track but rarely got the leverage he was looking for. He nudged the ball into the deep to steal twos but the fielders were wise to that trick. He even swung right across the line but nothing worked. He was 28 off 28 at the end of the 18th over.
To compensate for that, Kohli charged out to Santner and was caught behind. Boult then took over, picked up a couple more wickets and wrapped the game up with a career-best 4 for 34. He had recorded his worst ODI and T20I outings over the past week but found a way to raise his game when New Zealand needed it most.