Perfect pursuit seals series opening win for BLACKCAPS

The BLACKCAPS maintained their unbeaten record against world Twenty20 champions India, securing a rare victory in cricket's shortest format by cruising to a seven- wicket triumph in Christchurch tonight.

New Zealand overhauled India's 162 for eight with seven balls remaining to partially atone for their botched run chase against Australia in Sydney on February 15.

"It was a really pleasing win, they put us under pressure and we responded well," said New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori.

The Black Caps weathered a ferocious though sporadic assault in the tour opener before producing a measured pursuit which facilitated just New Zealand's second Twenty20 win in 10 matches.

Man of the match Brendon McCullum complied a responsible unbeaten 56 from 49 balls while Jacob Oram marked his return from injury by helping close out the win on 166 for three, a couple of lusty blows keeping the equation under control.

Oram (29 from 15) had the final say, slamming Yusuf Pathan into the stands for the 24th six of the contest -- a new record eclipsing the 20 Australia and India shared at Durban in 2007.

Martin Guptill launched the run chase with 41 off 26 though he was lucky not to be adjudged leg before wicket first ball when he shoulder arms to Ishant Sharma.

The right arm quick was dumbstruck when umpire Evan Watkin turned down the appeal, a ball after Jesse Ryder's comeback was ended, also lbw, for a single.

Guptill made the most of his reprieve, striking a quartet of boundaries and a trio of sixes -- including a brace from Irfan Pathan as the paceman's first over cost 18.

Guptill was eventually undone by Harbhajan Singh's fourth ball but crucially the wily offspinner could not cause any further damage.

Earlier Virender Sehwag made an instant statement of intent, setting his tour in motion by astonishingly depositing the first three balls he faced from Tim Southee on the building site at mid wicket.

The ultra-aggressive opener effortlessly stroked the ball into the partially built stand as Southee conceded 19 off the innings' opening over.

Sehwag's assault eventually reaped 26 from 10 balls -- six scoring strokes all told, four of which cleared the ropes.

But his demise started a trend of India's star-studded top order producing only brief, though eventful, cameos.

Suresh Raina, who took guard in the third over, followed Sehwag's example by getting off the mark with a six but unlike his predecessor he maintained the rage to the end of the innings.

The left hander complied a measured 61 not out from 43 balls, playing relatively safe to hold up an end before accelerating past 50 with his second consecutive six -- and his fifth of the innings -- off Iain O'Brien in the 19th over.

Yusuf Pathan (20 from eight) was Raina's first useful ally, emulating Sehwag by swatting the first three deliveries of spinner Nathan McCullum's spell over the fence at long on.

The fourth was heading in the same direction but an off balance Oram took the catch, flicking the ball airborne as his momentum carried him over the rope before he caught the ball in play -- reminiscent of Adam Voges match-turning catch at the SCG.

Harbhajan was also a useful foil for Raina, adding 21 off 22 as before the spinner was skittled by the final ball off the innings to give Southee expensive figures of one for 42 from his four. Vettori delivered a contrasting one for 18.

Indian captain MS Dhoni lamented an innings that lurched to 83 for six at the halfway mark.

"We got off to a good start but we have to remember it's a 20 over game. Nobody took the responsibility to stay there in the middle."

New Zealand won their only previous match against India by 10 runs in Johannesburg during inaugural T20 World Cup two years ago.

The second and final Twenty20 match is in Wellington on Friday; the five match one-day series starts in Napier on Tuesday.

NZPA

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