Imagine running into a brick wall again and again and again. It's perhaps T20 cricket's equivalent of dropping three catches, and in addition New Zealand's ground fielding in Delhi featured uncharacteristic fumbles. The cost of such indiscipline was 154 runs, the match and their No.1 ranking. Kane Williamson is not a captain who would give excuses, but deep down this defeat would have stung. The visitors now need a strong response to force the series into the decider in Thiruvananthapuram.
For all the skill Tom Latham and Williamson displayed in the ODI series, they lacked the muscle to have a proper crack at a target of 203. New Zealand are also struggling to identify a finisher. Henry Nicholls' audition for the role in the ODIs gave the side hope, but Colin de Grandhomme has had an underwhelming stint both with the A team and the senior team, managing 91 runs in five innings at a strike-rate of 81.98. He has fared worse with the ball, taking a solitary wicket at an average of 203 and economy rate of 6.76. New Zealand need to work out a way to fit Ross Taylor, who hasn't played T20Is since the World Cup last year, in the middle order.
India's batsmen ran away with the chances offered to them, but the management would have been more pleased with the bowlers. Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled Colin Munro with a pinpoint yorker; and dew or not, Yuzvendra Chahal and Axar Patel continued being remarkably accurate.
India: WLWWL (completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand: LLWWW
In the spotlight
Since his debut in 2014, Shreyas Iyer has been such a prolific scorer in domestic cricket that some feel he should have been given an international cap much earlier. The Mumbai batsman did not even get to bat on Wednesday, and will be eager to announce himself to the world, and possibly even throw his hat in the ring for the rolling No. 4 slot in ODIs.
It seems hard to believe that Ish Sodhi wasn't even part of the ODI squad for the India tour. From a fill-in for the injured Todd Astle, he led the attack in Delhi, showing excellent control over both the legbreak and the wrong'un. He had the second-best economy rate on a night when 351 runs were scored.
With Ashish Nehra now retired from all cricket, there is one spot up for grabs in Rajkot. India might consider handing a debut to Hyderabad quick Mohammed Siraj or beef up their middle order by including Manish Pandey or Dinesh Karthik.
India (probable): 1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 Shreyas Iyer, 5 MS Dhoni (wk), 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Axar Patel, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Mohammed Siraj/Manish Pandey/Dinesh Karthik 11 Yuzvendra Chahal
Not so long ago, Taylor's T20 future was uncertain, but this middle order now needs his experience. He could come in place of fellow Central Districts batsman Tom Bruce.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Kane Williamson (capt.), 3 Colin Munro, 4 Ross Taylor/Tom Bruce, 5 Tom Latham (wk), 6 Henry Nicholls, 7 Colin de Grandhomme, 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Trent Boult, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Ish Sodhi
Pitch and conditions
The pitch to be used on Saturday looked completely devoid of grass in the middle of a lush green outfield. The track is known to favour batsmen and more runs could be expected for the second T20 too. Rajkot, like Delhi and Kanpur, will continue to provide the teams with pleasant, early winter conditions.
Stats and trivia
Virat Kohli needs 12 runs to surpass Tillakaratne Dilshan's tally of 1889 and become the second-highest scorer in T20Is. Brendon McCullum leads the list with 2140 runs.
Yuzvendra Chahal needs three wickets to become the joint-highest wicket-taker in T20Is this year along with West Indies' Kesrick Williams and Afghanistan's Rashid Khan.
New Zealand need to win the remaining matches in the series to reclaim the top spot in T20Is and establish a three-point lead over Pakistan.
The average first-innings score at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium in the last two IPL seasons is 169. Only one T20I has been played at this venue, in 2013 when India chased down 202 against Australia.
"It's my home ground so I know what to expect from the wicket. I'm looking to bowl the way I did in the IPL because you don't get much turn, it's skiddy and there's not much bounce."
India left-arm spinner Axar Patel
"Taking the conditions into account, especially in T20s, is really important because you have to try and get something out of the wicket or conditions because batsmen are constantly trying to get after the spinners. "
New Zealand legspinner Ish Sodhi