Ireland have been defeated by New Zealand by 31 runs in their opening T20 international in Belfast.

The hosts, who just missed out on a first victory over New Zealand when they lost the final ODI by one run in Malahide last week, won the toss and elected to field first at the Civil Service Cricket Club.

It looked a solid call from captain Andy Balbirnie as New Zealand opener Finn Allen fell in the third over when he was caught at cover off Joshua Little for just one run, with Martin Guptill (24) soon following after he holed out at long off.

Josh Little celebrates taking the wicket of Michael Bracewell

Wicketkeeper-batter Dane Cleaver (five) lasted only seven deliveries on his debut, nicking a length ball from Little behind. Daryl Mitchell was soon also sent back for the same score as he caught a top edge off Curtis Campher to leave the tourists 54 for four in the ninth over.

However, a fluid 29 from Jimmy Neesham, which included a six hitting the sightscreen, and a fine unbeaten 69 from Glenn Phillips, off 52 balls with seven boundaries, helped steady the innings on into three figures, with New Zealand finishing at 173 for eight. All-rounder Michael Bracewell made 21 on his debut, and was one of Little's four wickets.

New Zealand got an early breakthrough in the field when captain Mitchell Santner claimed a fine backwards catch to dismiss Balbirnie for 12, before taking two wickets himself with the ball to reduce Ireland to 69 for five in the 10th over.

Spectators watch the T20 International in Stormont

Campher (29) and George Dockrell (15) pushed Ireland on, with Mark Adair adding a rapid 25, but the run chase proved too much as the hosts were all out for 142 in 18.2 overs, Lockie Ferguson finishing with four for 14.