It may have been his ninth Twenty20 international, but Tim Seifert truly introduced himself on the world stage on Wednesday night.
Seifert smacked a stellar 84 from 43 balls to lead the Black Caps to an 80-run victory — the largest defeat in India's Twenty20 history, and one that puts them on the precipice of a rare series defeat.
Elevated to the top of the order, Seifert made the most of an opportunity he hadn't received in his international career to date. Of his seven Twenty20 knocks for the Black Caps before tonight, five saw him bat at seven or lower in the order, and he had compiled just 42 runs.
On Wednesday night, he doubled that, in a splendid knock reminiscent of Brendon McCullum. It's somewhat an easy comparison – they're similar in stature, and both wicketkeepers, but Seifert was also just as aggressive, charging down the crease and flat-batting screaming sixes to all corners of Westpac Stadium.
With support from Colin Munro (34 from 20 balls) and Kane Williamson (34 from 22), Seifert set a platform that allowed free reign for the hitters that followed to cash in, and they did, reaching 219-6 – the highest score at Westpac Stadium, and highest by any team against India since 2016.
After New Zealand's opening struggles in ODIs – having not recorded a fifty partnership in over a year – Seifert and Munro came out and bashed 85 from the first eight overs in the first of three T20s. They had some luck – there's always some luck in this format – but Seifert was in fine form, picking up anything that drifted into his pads on his way to seven fours and six sixes.
It was hardly a surprise that Seifert was capable of such destruction – he owns the fastest T20 century in New Zealand – but with the 24-year-old having an outside chance of making the ODI World Cup squad as keeping and batting cover, it was a timely reminder.
So, too, was Tim Southee's bowling, after he sat out the last four one-dayers. With India chasing 220, they needed a fast start, but Southee remarkably went for just two runs from his first two overs, and picked up the key wicket of Rohit Sharma.
Without two of the world's best Twenty20 batsmen – Virat Kohli (average of 49.2 at a strike rate of 136) and KL Rahul (43.4 at 148), India didn't have their usual firepower, and when Mitchell Santner took two wickets in three balls, they needed a miracle.
They didn't get it, Southee finishing with 3-17, with India - who are unbeaten in their last 10 Twenty20 series' – now on the brink of their first series defeat since 2017.
Meanwhile, the White Ferns have caused a massive Indian collapse to claim a superb win in their Twenty20 series opener.
Chasing 160 for victory, India were cruising at 102-1 halfway through the 12th over, but an Amelia Kerr breakthrough and a Lea Tahuhu barrage sparked a meltdown, and they were eventually rolled for 136.
Kerr took the big wicket of Smriti Mandhana, the batswoman who had given New Zealand so many problems in the ODI series. She again was in excellent touch to begin India's chase, blasting ten boundaries in 58 off 34 balls, while fellow young star Jemimah Rodrigues compiled a 33-ball 39 as the pair added a record-tying 98 for the second wicket.
However, just as all looked lost, Kerr had Mandhana caught in the deep; Hannah Rowe holding onto a smart catch, before Tahuhu drew three consecutive loose shots to rip through the middle order. Rodrigues flayed at a ball outside off and got an edge through to Katey Martin behind the stumps, and two overs later, two more wickets fell to the seamer, with Kerr claiming two catches.
From 102-1, India were 111-5, and suddenly their chase looked daunting again, after the White Ferns had set a strong total.
Sophie Devine led the way with 62 from 48 balls, getting support in a third-wicket partnership of 69 with captain Amy Satterthwaite, who made 33 off 27. However, when both departed in quick succession, the Ferns still needed some late firepower, and Martin provided it, smoking 27 off 14 balls to set up a quality chase.
It looked all too easy for India, and even when Tahuhu put them in trouble, they still had Harmanpreet Kaur at the crease, and the White Ferns were well aware of what she could do.
After all, she was the woman who practically doomed New Zealand's chances at the Twenty20 World Cup, cracking a record 103 from 51 balls in a win that left the Ferns eventually short of making the semifinals.
However, Kerr lured her out of the crease, and Martin did the rest, taking off the bails to end India's chances.