Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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England 226 for 7 (Livingstone 95*, Curran 42, Boult 3-37) beat New Zealand 147 (Mitchell 57, Topley 3-27, Willey 3-34) by 79 runs
Liam Livingstone's 95 not out rescued England and set up a series-squaring victory over New Zealand at the Ageas Bowl. His highest ODI score enabled England to set New Zealand 227 to win in a match reduced to 34 overs a side by rain. And despite Daryl Mitchell's 57, the visitors fell a long way short after a lower-order implosion.
Trent Boult marked his return to New Zealand colours by taking three early wickets in eight balls in his 100th ODI to leave England 8 for 3 in helpful bowling conditions. And by the time Livingstone walked out at No. 7, they had further slipped to 55 for 5 and were facing a fourth consecutive white-ball defeat.
But in partnerships with Moeen Ali and Sam Curran - worth 48 and 112, respectively - Livingstone dragged England up to a competitive total. He started steadily before isolating Tim Southee as the weak link in New Zealand's attack: Livingstone carted him for six boundaries in 17 balls, and the only surprise was that he could not jump from 91 to three figures off the final two.
"I haven't had the greatest couple of months," Livingstone reflected. "Unfortunately, there's a reason why there's not many lower-order hitters that have mastered the art of the game: it's a pretty difficult role to do. If you get on a roll, it's pretty nice, but if you get yourself in a bit of a rut, it's quite hard to get out of. It's probably the first time in my career where I've had two months of struggling so I've put in a lot of work behind the scenes to try and go back to knowing what I can do - and that's win games for England."
Despite his patchy form this summer, Livingstone's all-round ability and superb IPL record means there has never been any real doubt of his spot in England's World Cup squad. With two contrasting half-centuries in three days, he has emphatically proved why. This was his longest innings in international cricket, and his highest in a win.
New Zealand lost Finn Allen to the second ball of their chase, castled by David Willey, but looked on course at 111 for 3, with Mitchell in dominant mood. But Reece Topley took three wickets in eight balls in his second spell to finish with 3 for 27, as New Zealand imploded, losing their last seven wickets for 36.
Boult, playing international cricket for the first time since last year's T20 World Cup, did the early damage. His New Zealand career has been on hold since late last year after he negotiated a release from his central contract in order to maximise his availability for franchise leagues around the world, but New Zealand were always likely to welcome him back ahead of next month's World Cup, and his new-ball spell demonstrated why.
He struck with his seventh ball, as Jonny Bairstow's leading edge spooned up towards cover where Mitchell Santner took a spectacular catch, nailing the timing of his leap. Joe Root lasted two balls, smashed on the knee roll by an inswinger, and Ben Stokes gave Boult the charge only to loft to mid-off.
In the absence of Jason Roy (back spasm) and Dawid Malan (paternity leave), Harry Brook was again given the opportunity to open the batting, but he fell immediately after a shortened powerplay. Brook looked to swing Matt Henry over the infield, but his leading edge looped up to the back-pedalling mid-on fielder.
Jos Buttler then led the counterpunch, flaying Boult down the ground for three boundaries in four balls, but fell for 30 off 25 when he chopped Santner's drag-down onto his own stumps. As with Bairstow and Brook, Buttler's dismissal hinted at a slowish surface, with several balls sticking in the pitch.
When Livingstone walked out at No. 7 to join Moeen, England had more than 20 overs left to bat. The pair added 48 in 50 balls, starting watchfully before occasionally freeing their arms when New Zealand offered width. Moeen fell for 33 to a brilliant diving catch at point by Glenn Phillips, at which point Livingstone decided it was time to shift gears.
Livingstone targeted Southee, hitting 17 runs off an over - including three boundaries in four balls; by the time he brought up a 47-ball half-century, his second in three days, he had already played his longest innings for England. At the far end, Curran, playing his first game since the Hundred final, belted both left-arm spinners - Santner and Rachin Ravindra - for sixes.
The pair brought up a 100-run partnership at the end of the 32nd over when Livingstone swiped Henry's slower ball into the stands for his first six. Curran fell shovelling Southee to short third, and after Mitchell trod on the boundary toblerone while attempting a catch off Willey at long-off, Livingstone could only heave the final two balls for a brace of twos.
Allen, who will not feature in the provisional World Cup squad that New Zealand name tomorrow, survived an lbw review off the first ball of the chase but was castled on the second by Willey, even as Gus Atkinson bowled a bright first spell to keep England ahead of the game. He had Devon Conway caught behind, before Will Young was lazily run-out as Willey pounced at mid-off.
Mitchell kept New Zealand ticking, adding 56 with Tom Latham, but Topley's second spell changed the game. Latham chased a wide one before Phillips fell to a stunning caught-and-bowled, and Ravindra edged his second ball to slip. From 123 for 6, it was Mitchell or bust.
Having hoisted Moeen over long-off for six, Mitchell miscued a full toss to mid-off to give Moeen his 100th ODI wicket; he soon had his 101st too, as Santner sliced to point. Willey mopped up the tail to finish with three wickets of his own, to leave England basking in the early-evening sunshine.
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Trent Boult had reduced hosts to 8 for 3, before Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali and Sam Curran also joined the rescue act
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