New Zealand's left-arm spinner, Mitchell Santner, produced an impressive display to pick up four wickets for eleven runs in his four-over spell that helped his side beat India by 47 runs in the opening match of the World T20 played in Nagpur on Tuesday.
New Zealand, with quality fast bowlers in their ranks, opted for a spin-heavy attack - comprising of Santner, Ish Sodhi and Nathan McCullum - against a confident India side, on an eleven-match winning spree.
Kane Williamson, New Zealand's captain, won the toss and opted to bat first and his side made their attacking-intentions clear from the start, as Martin Guptill clubbed R Ashwin for a six from the first ball of the match.
However, Ashwin hit back with vengeance and trapped him lbw from the second ball. The tourists continued to struggle on a pitch that offered spinners assistance. Colin Munroe and Kane Williamson failed to answer the questions India's spinners posed. When the duo departed New Zealand were at 35 for three inside seven overs. Their powerful middle order comprising of Corey Anderson, Ross Taylor and Santner came to the fore to motor their side towards a respectable total.
A usually fluent and aggressive Anderson took the cautious approach enroute to his 42-ball 34, Santner hit two boundaries in his 17-ball 18 and Taylor scored 10. Wicket-keeper, Luke Ronchi, added a quick fire 21 from just 11 balls to help the host's post 126 in their innings.
New Zealand's bowlers knew that an early wicket was crucial in the defence of their meagre total and Nathan McCullum - who will join his brother Brendon in retirement after the tournament - trapped opener Shikhar Dhawan lbw in the first over itself.
Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma then set about taming the demons in the Nagpur pitch. But, Santner's introduction into the attack in just the third over, made it extremely difficult for the duo to do that. The left-arm spinner got his second ball to spin alarmingly and beat an advancing Sharma in the air, to have him stumped for just five.
Three-balls later, Santner induced a leading edge, from Suresh Raina, that lobbed to Guptill at midwicket. India's powerful top order was reduced to 12 for three at that stage. Kohli and Yuvraj Singh turned to their experience to restore order.
While Kohli looked in control of the situation, Yuvraj failed. He popped a return catch to McCullum in the fifth over, with India struggled at 26. His departure brought MS Dhoni to the crease. India looked to the Kohli-Dhoni combine to bail them out of trouble on a track that was turning square. Kohli played fluently for most of the 27 balls he faced, but Sodhi broke his discipline.
The legspinner induced an edge, from Kohli, that was easily caught by Ronchi. India was losing wickets at an alarming rate and Dhoni was running out of partners and options, as the required rate kept mounting. Santner, like he had done earlier, returned to compound India's woes. He first trapped Hardik Pandya lbw in the tenth over and then got Dhoni to hit against the turn, in the 18th, only to find McCullum. His dismissal ended any hope of an Indian rearguard. The hosts managed just 79 runs in reply.
Santner, the Star player of the match, produced 16 dot balls in the four overs he bowled. His figures are the third best for a New Zealand bowler in a T20I, and the best by a New Zealand spinner. With this win, New Zealand completed five consecutive wins against India in T20Is.
"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. Jadeja was really spinning it, starting was hard ... trying to get to 130 140 but in the end 126 proved to be enough," Santner said.