Title favourites India capitulated to a shocking 47-run defeat against a spirited New Zealand in a low-scoring game as the hosts launched their ICC World Twenty20 campaign in the most ignominious manner.
After restricting New Zealand 126 for seven, India put up a pathetic batting display to be bundled out 79 in 18.1 overs, their second lowest Twenty20 total, on a turning track at a jam-packed VCA Stadium in Jamtha.
It was a horrendous performance from India, ranked world no 1 in the Twenty20 format, as the famed batting line-up showed poor skills and application to lose their fifth successive match against the Kiwis.
With impressive figures of 4-0-11-4, young left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner turned out to be the star performer with the ball for New Zealand, recording the best bowling figures by a Kiwi tweaker in India.
The home team now proceed to Kolkata to take on arch-foes Pakistan in their second game on March 19 while New Zealand travel to Dharamsala to clash against Trans-Tasman rivals Australia a day earlier.
India’s jinx in the T20 format against the Kiwis, thus, continued as the home team’s batting department came a cropper against the Kiwi spin trio of Nathan McCullum, Santner and Ish Sodhi.
Among the top five batsmen, only Virat Kohli reached double figures by making 23 off 22 balls with two fours while captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who made a run-a-ball 30 with one six and as many four, and Ravichandran Ashwin (10) were the only others to do so.
Dhoni prolonged India’s innings which looked a totally lost cause with the hosts staggering at 43 for seven that improved marginally to 61 for seven after the 15th over and was ninth batsmen to be dismissed, caught at long on off Santner after striking Sodhi for a huge straight six a little while earlier.
Nine of India’s 10 wickets fell to the Kiwi spin trio while last man Ashish Nehra was castled by pacer Adam Milne to complete the rout.
Santner captured a stunning 4 for 11, Sodhi grabbed 3 for 18 while McCullum, the senior-most spinner, took 2 for 15.
India commenced their modest chase on a shocking note by losing four wickets for 26 inside the powerplay and then lost their most in-form batsman Kohli at 39 in the ninth over.
The procession started when Shikhar Dhawan tried a sweep a McCullum delivery and was trapped plumb in front off the fifth ball.
Then Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina fell in the same over to Santner, stumped and caught at short mid-wicket respectively, before Yuvraj departed in the fifth over.
Yuvraj was caught and bowled by McCullum, an appeal that was reviewed by the third umpire before he was given out after it was confirmed that the ball had not hit the ground off the bat before being caught.
Leg-spinner Sodhi then made a stunning debut by dismissing Kohli, who was the lone batsman till then to show some fight, caught behind with the fourth ball of his first over to leave the huge crowd stunned into silence.
Worse followed with skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni standing a mute spectator at the other end as all-rounders Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja departed for 1 and 0 respectively.
Both the players were unable to negotiate the spinning ball which left India on the brink of an embarrassing defeat at 43 for seven.
From there on, the asking was too tough for India even though Dhoni and Ashwin managed to stitch a 30-run stand for the eighth wicket.
Earlier, India produced a superb bowling and fielding display to contain New Zealand to a modest 126 for seven.
On a track that assisted slow bowling, all the Indian bowlers -barring Ravichandran Ashwin who went for 32 runs - shone in the all-round bowling performance to restrict the Kiwis in front of a jam-packed stadium in India’s second round Group 2 lung-opener.
The New Zealand batting was largely disappointing as they were unable to come to terms with the pitch and the home team’s bowling.
Corey Anderson (24 in 42 balls) held the innings together till the 16th over and then perished trying to up the tempo which was sagging far too much.
Wicket keeper Luke Ronchi smashed 21 not out off 11 balls, inclusive of one six and two fours, and helped New Zealand get 15 runs in the final over, to push the score past 120.
For India, rookie medium pacer Jasprit Bumrah (1/15) was easily the most impressive bowler and also accounted for Anderson, while Ravindra Jadeja (1 for 26) and Suresh Raina (1 for 16) were also economical.
Ashish Nehra got 1 for 20 while Ashwin, who opened the bowling, too turned out to expensive but accounted for the wicket of opener Martin Guptill.
Guptill, known for his big-hitting, stunned the huge crowd by cloberring the first ball of the match from Ashwin over the straight-field for a six.
But Ashwin got his revenge in the next ball when he trapped Guptill leg before as the batsman went across for a slog-sweep.
The drama continued in the first over as new man Colin Munro smote the fourth ball with a switch-hit for a six as the off-spinner conceding 13 runs in the first over.
Nehra reduced the Kiwis to two for 13 when Munro spooned a drive to mid-off fielder Hardik Pandya.
While Ashwin proved expensive to concede 26 runs in his first three overs, Nehra was tight and Bumrah, playing in his first major ICC event, bowled a fine spell to keep the batsmen under a tight leash.
Dhoni sprang a surprise by introducing Suresh Raina in place of Ashwin and the move paid unexpected dividends. The part-time offie lured rival captain Kane Williamson out of the crease and had him stumped smartly by his Indian counterpart to leave New Zealand struggling at 35 for three in the seventh over.
At the half-way mark of their innings, New Zealand total was not looking healthy at 55 for three.
Raina produced a magical piece of fielding off his own bowling to pack off Ross for 10 with the total reading 61.
After 15 overs, New Zealand score read a poor 89 for four. To add to their woes, the Kiwis lost Anderson who, after being tied down by some tight wicket to wicket bowling, was cleaned up by Bumrah in the 16th over.
In the final over, Ronchi struck a six and a four in the of Nehra to boost the total.