Rohit finished on 15 not out after he hit two sixes off Tim Southee to lead India to 20/0 after New Zealand scored 17/0 in their over bowled by Jasprit Bumrah, with Kane Williamson scoring 11, while Martin Guptill finished on five.
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New Zealand captain Williamson had almost single-handedly led his side to a win in the regulation 20 overs when he blasted 95 from 48 balls but was dismissed by Mohammed Shami with three balls remaining and two runs needed for victory.
Shami, however, conceded just one run through a bye on the penultimate ball then bowled Ross Taylor on the final delivery to leave New Zealand on 179-6.
India, who scored 179-5 in their innings, won the first two games of the five-match series in Auckland at the weekend.
Rohit (65) and KL Rahul had given India a blistering start, with Rohit’s 20th Twenty20 half century being reached inside the first six overs as they put on 77 runs in the first seven.
Rahul was dismissed on the final ball of the ninth over but at 89-1 with 11 overs remaining the tourists were still well placed to score over 200 before New Zealand clamped down in the second half of the innings.
Hamish Bennett, who got clubbed for three sixes and two fours by Rohit in the sixth over, dismissed the Indian opener in the 11th then two balls later got rid of Shivam Dube and the torrent of runs slowed.
The fourth game is in Wellington on Friday.