Chasing an easy, yet tricky, target India kept losing wickets at regular intervals and when skipper MS Dhoni, who was removed by a superb catch from Tim Southee on his own ball, the match slipped away from their hands in the 40th over.
But man of the match in the previous game, Hardik Pandya, showed some grit to once again bring the game into India's favour. Pandya, who was only playing his second ODI, showed a lot of character and made valiantly effort to keep hosts into the hunt.
Pandya kept India's hopes alive for as long as he was present at the crease. But a slight misjudgement of the short-pitched ball from Trent Boult cost him his precious wicket, and hosts the match.
Hardik Pandya (36) and Umesh Yadav (18) tried their best with a 49-run stand for the ninth wicket but Pandya's dismissal in the penultimate over ended India's hopes with Southee cleaning up Jasprit Bumrah (0) in the final over with a perfect yorker.
The loss may, yet again, raise question mark about "Captain Cool's ability to win matches even when there wasn't too much pressure of the scoreboard.
If the finisher Dhoni came under scrutiny for failing to finish things for the Indian side, in conditions 'tailor made' for him, but young Pandya's gutsy innings garnered a lot of praise from cricket experts as well as fans.
India might have lost the game due to poor batting performance as some of the most bankable stars in the Indian side disappointed, but an almost match-winning knock from the Gujarat all-rounder brought some last moment thrill into the game.
Pandya won over several hearts for taking the match, which once slipped off India's grip in the 40th over, down the wire. But eventually, it was the experience of the Black Caps' bowlers which helped them level the series 1-1.
Fans on Twitter lauded the effort of the young player who delivered with the bat in this match, after an impressive performance with the ball in his debut game. His genuine all-round performance will certainly make the right-handed batsman an asset, that team is looking for, at this moment.
Although, the youngster still needs to learn how to keep his senses calm in pressure situations like these and finish things successfully for the side, but one learns about these things with experience. And one just hopes Pandya matures with more matches he plays and holds his nerves in times like these in games to come.
Here's how Twitterati hailed Pandya's heroic innings:
Hardik Pandya has grown a little bit more today. Genuine all round prospect. Is in a good learning atmosphere.— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) October 20, 2016
Hardik Pandya , what a gutsy effort.— Mohammad Kaif (@MohammadKaif) October 20, 2016
Tough to lose such close ones,but a real gutsy effort. Good luck Team India for the remaining 3 matches
Pandya and Jadhav big gains in the first two games...have done almost everything that Dhoni asked of them. #indvsnz— Aakash Chopra (@cricketaakash) October 20, 2016
It doesn't matter if India wins or not, Umesh Yadav and Hardik Pandya won everyones heart. 💕 #IndvNZ— Dev Ashish Pati (@LuckyDebashish) October 20, 2016
Well played Hardik Pandya. These are early days in your career. You'll only learn with time. Importantly, you're in the right hands. #INDvNZ— Chinmay Jawalekar🏏 (@CricfreakTweets) October 20, 2016