All-rounder Jimmy Neesham has emerged as an unlikely hero, as New Zealand survived an Australian charge in their second T20 encounter at Dunedin's University Oval.
Batting first, the Blackcaps smashed 219/7 off their allotted overs, with opener Martin Guptill breaking his run drought to compile 97 off 59 balls to lead the way. In the process, he became the most prolific international six-hitter in the short format.
Skipper Kane Williamson chimed in with a half-century, while Neesham - promoted up the order as a pinch-hitter - was left unbeaten on 45 off just 16 balls, clearing the rope six times.
On a smallish ground, the target was still a challenging one for the Aussies, who seemed short of a run two nights earlier in Christchurch, when they lost the series opener by 53 runs.
Momentum swung one way and then the other, as Josh Philippe had Australia well placed at 112/3 in the 13th over, before he, Ashton Agar and Mitchell Marsh fell in quick succession for just one run in the same Mitch Santner over.
Enter Marcus Stoinis, who quickly showed his ability to turn a match with powerful hitting, demolishing the NZ bowling attack for 78 runs off 37 balls, which included seven fours and five sixes.
Stoinis found an able ally in Daniel Sams and they put together a 92-run partnership (37 balls) that threatened to carry their team to a victory that seemed out of reach with 98 runs required off the final six overs.
Trent Boult bowled a tight 18th over, leaving the Aussies 30 runs off 12 balls, but Tim Southee let them back in the hunt with 15 runs off the penultimate over.
With his bowling options either used up or in tatters, Williamson tossed the ball to Neesham to bowl the final over - his first of the day - with Australia needing 15 runs, and Stoinis and Sams at full throttle.
With his first ball, Neesham enticed Sams to hole out to Glenn Phillips on the mid-wicket boundary.
Stoinis turned down a single to retain strike and smashed a six, bringing the equation to nine runs off two balls, but was also caught out by Southee at long on, as New Zealand celebrated victory.
Neesham's only over cost him 10 runs, but snared two absolutely crucial wickets and victory.
New Zealand now sit in the box seat for a series win, but with six days before the third encounter in Wellington, Australia have a chance to build on their improved showing, after escaping COVID-19 quarantine only three days ago.
NZ 219/5 (Guptill 97, Williamson 53, Neesham 45no, K Richardson 3/43)
Australia 215/8 (Stoinis 78, Philippe 45, Sams 41, Santner 4/31)
NZ win by four runs, lead series 2-0
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