England 146 for 7 (Bairstow 47, Santner 2-20) tied with New Zealand 146 for 5 (Guptill 50, Munro 46) Super OverEngland 17 beat New Zealand 8 for 1
It came down to a Super Over. Of course it did. For the second time in a matter of months, New Zealand were cruelly denied at the last by England. It wasn't quite the high drama of the World Cup final - in fact at times it was more like low farce - but once again Eoin Morgan's men prevailed following a tie in normal time, claiming the T20I series 3-2 after holding off the home side in a rip-roaring finale.
This was a fitting way to decide a series between two teams who just cannot shake one another, although the white-ball players might be happy not to cross paths again for a while. Just as it seemed New Zealand had held their nerve in the final over of a rain-shortened game, from which England needed 16, Chris Jordan popped up to hit his first ball for six and then Jimmy Neesham's final delivery for four to tie the scores. Neesham was not alone in offering up a rueful smile as the teams prepared for another tie-breaker.
It was Jordan, best mate of England's World Cup Super Over hero, Jofra Archer, who then sealed a slightly more comfortable margin of victory. Defending 17, and having given up a wide from his second ball, Jordan limited New Zealand to a single boundary as Martin Guptill, who led the way earlier in the day with a blistering fifty, was again left out on the middle on the wrong side of the result.
Set 147 to win the decider after rumbustious contributions from Guptill, Colin Munro and Tim Seifert, England gave it a hearty crack. But as wickets fell they were left needing 26 from the last two overs, and New Zealand always appeared to be just out of reach. Sam Billings ramped four but Tim Southee limited the damage from the rest of his over; Neesham then stepped up to restrict England to three from his first three balls, as well as taking the wicket of Tom Curran.
But Jordan just managed to clear deep point with his first blow, picked up two from the next ball and then flicked a Neesham full toss for four more to leave the teams dead level again. Jonny Bairstow, who fired England's chase with 47 from 18 balls, and Morgan both struck sixes in the Super Over and this time the result was all but certain by Jordan's final delivery.
England's requirement was already a demanding one - albeit at the venue for the highest successful chase in T20Is - but losing two wickets in the first seven balls undermined them further still. Tom Banton chipped Trent Boult over long-on but fell lbw next ball, despite confusion surrounding his review as the initial ball-tracking projection seemed to have been produced from the wrong delivery.
The returning James Vince was unable to match the impression made by Dawid Malan at No. 3 in the previous T20I - Malan was omitted according to pre-series planning despite his hundred in Napier - as he spooned his second delivery to mid-off, and although Morgan hit Boult for two sixes and a four, his dismissal in the same over via a lofted shot that failed to get beyond the infield saw England fall to 39 for 3 after the Powerplay.
As befitted the recent contests between these two sides, England kept coming, however. Bairstow cleared the ropes five times in a belligerent knock and while he and Sam Curran were together at the crease, England were in with a sniff, only for both to be dismissed in the space of consecutive balls.
Sam Curran, promoted up the order to No. 5, took Scott Kuggeleijn for two fours and two sixes in four balls as he raced ahead of his partner. Bairstow then struck the first three balls of Ish Sodhi's only over beyond the ropes between long-off and long-on as England soared to 90 for 3 at just past the halfway mark, needing 57 from 30.
It was Neesham, one the main protagonists from that World Cup final, who got the better of Bairstow, inducing a thin edge behind (and an audible expletive from the England opener). Sam Curran was then lured from his crease by Mitchell Santner, with Seifert completing a crucial stumping by millimetres to lift New Zealand, only for Billings and Tom Curran to keep England in touch.
With its short straight boundaries, Eden Park is something of a paradise for white-ball power hitters - and a game reduced to 11 overs a side meant no margin of error for the bowlers. Guptill and Munro were into their work immediately, carving and bludgeoning their way to 55 without loss from the three-over Powerplay.
Guptill was the more ruthless, clearing the ropes five times on his way to a 19-ball half-century - his first in international cricket since the opening game of the World Cup, back in June. He set the tone by smearing his second ball over the leg side, as Sam Curran's opening over cost 17, before twice crashing Tom Curran into the crowd as the next went for 20. Jordan and Adil Rashid were both dispatched into the top tier as New Zealand delivered some payback for the pasting they received on Friday in Napier.
With Munro hitting two sixes in his first four balls on the way to 46 off 21, England were scrambling. Only when Rashid and Saqib Mahmood delivered back-to-back single-figure overs did they threaten to pull the scoring rate back, but Seifert's aggression kept New Zealand in the contention for a total around 150.
Rashid broke the opening stand at the start of the sixth over, Guptill miscuing a leg-side heave to pick out the man on the rope. Mahmood then forced a similar error from Colin de Grandhomme. At the end of the seventh over, New Zealand were 95 for 2 but Seifert crunched his third and fifth balls for leg-side sixes to reignite the charge. The final stretch yielded another 51 runs, as England's attempts to make the batsmen hit square met with only sporadic success. Sam Curran started his second over well, having Munro caught at deep midwicket and following up with two dots - only for Seifert to rattle off 6-6-4 in response.
Seifert's fun was ended by a searing Tom Curran yorker, one ball after another punishing straight hit for six, and Ross Taylor was run out going for a second off the final ball of the innings. It was a challenging target but, once again, England and New Zealand were to prove (almost) inseparable.