A thundering innings by Corey Anderson and a magic spell of bowling by Mitch McClenaghan brought New Zealand a 24-run win over India in their opening one-day international on Sunday.
Chasing New Zealand's 292 for seven, India were all out for 268 in the 49th over despite Virat Kohli (123) posting his 18th ODI century.
It was the first time India have lost an ODI in which Kohli has reached three figures.
They appeared to have victory in their grasp when they needed just 70 from the last eight overs, and Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked comfortable in a 95-run partnership for the fifth wicket.
But in the space of six deliveries, McClenaghan removed Dhoni (40), Ravi Jadeja (duck) and Kohli to have India reeling on 237 for seven, and they never recovered.
That brief spell was where the game was lost, Dhoni said.
"Those three wickets that was tough on the team. You don't expect your tailenders to win the game and it was very important that one of us should've carried on. It was disappointing to lose the game."
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said it was "a captain's nightmare" when Kohli and Dhoni were in full flight but he had faith in McClenaghan.
"He's in the team to attack and take wickets and the message was pretty simple, 'try and find a way to take a wicket. Be aggressive as you can and be as hostile as you can and if it falls your way, great'. I thought he was outstanding."
Anderson had earlier returned to his brutal best with the bat after going off the boil following his record-breaking century in 36 balls against the West Indies three weeks ago.
In his first start against India, the world's top-ranked ODI side, Anderson blasted an unbeaten 68 off 40 deliveries.
He hit four sixes, two of them out of the ground, then returned with the ball to display his all-rounder credentials by removing two of India's top-order batsmen Shikhar Dhawan (32) and Ajinkya Rahane (seven).
India, who stand to forfeit their world number one ranking if they lose the five-match series to the eighth-ranked New Zealand, chose to bowl first on a wicket with a history of favouring the side batting last.
New Zealand lost Jesse Ryder and Martin Guptill early, leaving Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor with the task of building the innings. Their no-risk approach saw the run rate slump to 3.57 and at one stage New Zealand went 85 deliveries without a boundary.
Their 121-run partnership, which laid the platform for a big finish, ended with Williamson out for 71. Taylor followed soon after for 55 and Brendon McCullum belted a rapid 30.
Anderson then let fly. He and Luke Ronchi (30) put on 66 in 37 deliveries for the sixth wicket, including 19 off one over by Mohammed Shami to distort the figures of India's leading bowler who took four for 55.
India made a cautious start to their reply and went into their batting power play in the 35th over on 149-4, requiring a run rate of nine an over to win the game.
They came out of it five overs and 51 runs later with the run rate down to a manageable 5.12 and with Kohli and Dhoni looking very comfortable. But then McClenaghan came back for his closing spell and seized control for the home side.
The second match in the series is in Hamilton on Wednesday.
A brilliant century by India's Virat Kohli went in vain as New Zealand put up a superb all-round show with bat, ball and some excellent catches in the field to win the first ODI at Napier, New Zealand, by 24 runs on Sunday.
The one-down batsman survived a dropped catch in the nineties but made the hosts almost pay for it with 123 from 111 balls but it was undone by the other batsmen and some good fielding.
Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni played a perfect foil to Kohli but the Kiwi bowlers led by Mitchell McClenaghan's four wickets gave the hosts a 1-0 lead in the five-match ODI series.
Earlier half centuries by Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson helpoed New Zealand reach a defendable 292.
Ashwin hits a few lofty sixes but fails to connect this one and holes out to Southee.
Ravichandran Ashwin c Southee b Williamson 12 (10b 0x4 1x6)
Three overs to go and India need another 36 runs for victory.
Ashwin hits McClenaghan for a six. Tense moments on both sides.
India need 46 from 24 balls.
A run that was there and Bhuvneshwar is well short of his ground trying a cheeky single.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar run out 6 (4b 1x4 0x6)
Pressure on India as they need 49 from 30 balls.
McClenaghan bags his third wicket from six balls, getting the dangerous Kohli to an innocuous full toss. India need 54 from 33 balls.
Virat Kohli c Ryder b McClenaghan 123 (111b 11x4 2x6)
Kohli keeps the fight on as India still need 60 from 36 balls.
McClenaghan brings the Kiwis back in the match getting Jadeja to edge to Ronchi.
Ravindra Jadeja c Ronchi b McClenaghan 0 (3b 0x4 0x6)
Dhoni is cramped for space and top edges one to wicket-keeper Ronchi off McClenaghan. India 224 for 5 after 42.1 overs.
MS Dhoni c Ronchi b McClenaghan 40 (46b 2x4 2x6)
Dhoni gets to his 40 as India need 70 from 48 balls.
Kohli and Dhoni pick up the runs with ease. India 216 for 4 after 41 overs.
More trouble for the Kiwis as their fast bowler Milne leaves the field with a side strain.
India bring run rate down, need 83 from 60 balls.
This time it is Nathan who comes under fire from Dhoni, clobbered over his head for a maximum.
India 93 runs away from target with six wickets in hand and 11 overs in the bag.
Dhoni gets into the act with his signature-style pull over long-on for a six.
Kohli hits a signature cover drive off Southee for his 18th ODI hundred from 28 matches. India 190 for 4 in 37 overs.
Kohli gets a life when his skier off Southee is misjudged by Ryder. Could prove a costly error.
India inching closer, need another 113 from 78 balls.
Kohli gives McClenaghan the stick getting 11 runs off his over.
India need another 131 runs from 90 balls. Not a difficult task but Kohli and Dhoni have to stick on.
Kohli survives a run-out from a direct throw by Nathan McCullum.
Singles and twos not helping India's cause as the run rate climbs over 8 an over.
It's time for the drinks break and for India to plan a new strategy.
Another 150 needed for India from 19 overs.
ndia need another 156 runs to win from 20 overs.
Milne strikes as Raina miscues a pull shot to Southee at fine leg. Ind 129-4 in 28.2 overs.
Suresh Raina c Southee b Milne 18 (22b 2x4 0x6)
Kohli dances down the track and smashes Nathan for his first six. He completes his half century with a single. Ind 112-3 in 26 overs.
They say catches win matches and this one-handed catch by Nathan McCullum surely rates high diving full length to grab a low catch to get rid of Rahane and give Anderson his second wicket.
Ajinkya Rahane c Nathan McCullum b Anderson 7 (13b 0x4 0x6)
India exactly 10 runs behind New Zealand after the 20 over stage.
Dhawan tries an ambitious pull shot but gets a top-edge to Taylor. Good bowling by Anderson who forced Dhawan into a hasty shot. The drinks break seems to have helped the Kiwis.
Shikhar Dhawan c Taylor b Anderson 32 (46b 3x4 0x6)
The 50 partnership comes up for India with Kohli and Dhawan looking good at drinks break.
Kohli brings up India's 50 with a stylish straight drive off Adam Milne.
India need another 250 runs from 40 overs.
Dhawan starts to live dangerously. He gets two boundaries but is also dropped by Corey Anderson at square leg, a half chance, off Southee.
Kohli pulls McClenaghan for two boundaries, one a slap shot through mid-wicket and the other through between mid-wicket and mid-on.
Virat Kohli comes to the crease and in typical fashion sends a crisp straight drive to the ropes.
Rohit Sharma's poor form continues. After struggling against Mitchell McClenaghan he tries to wriggle his way out by going after the bowler only to loft it to Southee in the deep.
Rohit Sharma c Southee b McClenaghan 3 (23b 0x4 0x6)
NEW ZEALAND INNINGS
Half centuries from Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Corey Anderson undid the good work by Mohammed Shami for India as New Zealand scored 292 for 7 in the first ODI at Napier, New Zealand, on Sunday.
Williamson (71) and Taylor (55) came together with the score on 32 for 2 after the Kiwis were rocked early by Shami who got rid of both openers Martin Guptill and Jesse Ryder.
The duo put on 121 runs for the third wicket to steady the innings. Later Anderson, who has the fastest 100 from 36 balls to his name, hit a blistering 68 from 40 balls with three fours and four sixes as the Kiwis scored 90 runs in the last 10 overs which could prove decisive.
Shami was the pick of the Indian bowlers with four for 55 while the rest went for plenty of runs which will be a cause for worry for the Indian captain MS Dhoni.
Luke Ronchi c Kumar b Ishant Sharma 30 (18b 2x4 2x6)
Last five overs Kiwis have scored 54 runs and lost one wicket. NZ 260 for 5 after 45 overs.
Sixes and fours flow from the bats of Anderson and Luke Ronchi as Jadeja is taken apart for 20 runs.
Anderson shows his might again pulling Shami onto the roof of the net. Then hits him for another two boundaries to get 19 runs from his 7th over.
Dhoni standing up to Bhuvneshwar takes a beauty of a catch after a thick edge from the bat of McCullum.
Brendon McCullum c Dhoni b Kumar 30 (25b 4x4 0x6)
Anderson and Brendon take Ishant to the cleaners getting 17 runs off his 7th over.
The fastest century maker in ODIs Corey Anderson sends Ishant outside the ground with a lofty hit over mid-wicket.
Shami brought back into the attack gets the prized wicket of Taylor as he flashes at a wide ball and Dhoni dives to claim his 300th dismissal in ODIs, becoming only the first Indian and fourth wicket-keeper to achieve this feat.
Ross Taylor c Dhoni b Mohammed Shami 55 (82b 1x4 0x6)
Jadeja finally gets the breathrough ending Williamson and Taylor's 121-run partnership.
A brilliant knock by Williamson comes to an end. His 71 coming off 88 balls. NZ 153 for 3 after 33 overs.
Kane Williamson c Rahane b Jadeja 71 (88b 7x4 0x6)
Taylor and Williamson bring up the 100-run partnership from 131 balls.
Jadeja and Ashwin dry up the runs for the Kiwis conceding just singles and twos.
Williamson notches his 7th half century from 50ODIs.
After two early setbacks, New Zealand make a comeback and at the halfway stage are 112 for 2.
India's attack looks ordinary now as both batsmen start milking the bowlers.
Williamson and Taylor steady New Zealand with a 50-run partnership.
Taylor reaches 4,000 runs from 133 ODIs and it's drinks break.
After a sedate start Williamson ups the tempo.
Williamson hits two chip shots over mid-wicket and mid-on areas for runs as Taylor gives him good company.
Two welcome boundaries for New Zealand as Williamson hits Ishant off his pads through mid-wicket. Then Taylor clips him off his toes down fine leg.
Williamson and Taylor take the Kiwis to 50 without further damage.
India introduce spin in the form of Jadeja.
Williamson opens his arms a bit standing tall to drive Ishant Sharma for a couple of runs.
Indian bowlers maintain a tight leash on the Kiwi batsmen conceding less than four runs per over in the first 10.
With runs drying up Guptill tries to go after Shami, flashing hard at the bowler only to give Ashwin a chest-high catch at first slip.
Martin Guptill c Ashwin b Mohammed Shami 8 (23b 1x4 0x6)
Martin Guptill breaks the shackles with a classy boundary through mid-off of Bhuvneshwar.
Shami gets his revenge clean bowling Ryder, again exposing the left-hander on his off-side. No footwork there from Ryder and India are happy to see the back of him.
Jessi Ryder b Mohammed Shami 18 (16b 3x4 1x6)
The aggressive Ryder means business, slamming Mohammed Shami for back-to-back fours.
Jesse Ryder is on the ball picking Bhuvneshwar Kumar's sixth ball off his legs for a six.
Dhoni goes in with more or less a predictable side leaving Stuart Binny as the 12th man, while Brendon McCullum makes two changes from the side that played West Indies recently. Adam Milne gets a look-in as Kyle Mills and James Neesham are dropped.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum, Corey Anderson, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Adam Milne, Luke Ronchi, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys will begin the defence of their World Cup title next year which the Kiwis will co-host with Australia.
The reigning world champions will also be looking to defend their number one ranking, in this format of the game, against the eighth-ranked hosts.
India must win the series if they are to retain their No.1 status in the ICC ODI team rankings.
India are sitting atop the ICC team rankings table with 120 ratings points.
If India lose the series, they will lose their No.1 ranking and as many as six ratings points.
India have been the top ranked ODI side since January 2013, having replaced England at the top.
Dhoni said he will not be taking the Black Caps lightly.
India will play two Tests and five one-dayers against the New Zealanders, in a tour itinerary shortened by one Test and one Twenty 20 due to India’s participation in the Asia Cup in late February.
“They will be a fantastic side,” he told reporters after the side arrived in Auckland. “They’ve got good bowlers in the side now. I would rather go into the series not taking the New Zealand team lightly. Especially at home, they’ll know the conditions better than us and for some who have not played here it will be a challenge.”
Dhoni said the series would be a good for experience since the World Cup will be hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand.
"It's good exposure for our players who have not played in New Zealand before. So it will be a good experience for them. In turn, it will be good for the team because we will have players who have already played in these conditions and particularly at venues where we will be playing the 2015 World Cup," said the Indian captain.
New Zealand: Brendon McCullum (captain), Corey Anderson, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, James Neesham, Luke Ronchi, Jesse Ryder, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson.
India: MS Dhoni (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ambati Rayudu, Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishwar Pandey, Varun Aaron, Amit Mishra.