New Zealand lost, but they won the bigger prize. There will be a Trans-Tasman rematch in the tri-series final at Eden Park after the home side did enough to stay ahead of England on net run rate. Colin Munro's 18-ball fifty, his third sub 20-ball half-century, gave New Zealand breathing space as they hunted 175 to ensure their progress, although Tom Curran held his nerve in the final over to earn victory as an enjoyable T20 encounter was decided off the final ball.
England, pointless coming into this match and needing to win by a margin of at least 20 runs after being put in, had given themselves a chance with a strong batting performance anchored around Eoin Morgan's most convincing innings of the tour and another half-century from Dawid Malan. However, the early overs with the ball were horrid - feeding Munro's strength on his pads - and by the end of the Powerplay, New Zealand had 77 on the board. Martin Guptill's fine form continued with a 47-ball 62 and Mark Chapman helped ensure New Zealand did the minimum they needed, but 21 off the last two overs proved a little too much despite Chapman being dismissed off a no-ball by Chris Jordan.
It was New Zealand's start that mattered. Munro clobbered seven sixes inside the fielding restrictions as David Willey and Curran were especially guilty of getting their lines wrong. The grass banks from deep backward square round to long-on were well peppered, those fans in sponsor shirts trying to earn NZD50,000 with a catch given a few chances. One punter did win, during England's innings.
Having picked two spinners - recalling Liam Dawson in place of Mark Wood - it was a surprise that one of them wasn't bowled inside the Powerplay after the seamers had been carted early on. When Adil Rashid, now officially a white-ball specialist, was introduced in the seventh over he struck with his third ball when Munro top-edged to deep square leg.
Rashid and Dawson made scoring hard work on a pitch that gripped, bowling their combined eight overs for 49 runs, with 18 of those coming off Dawson's last as Chapman took him for two leg-side sixes. Dawson had removed Kane Williamson, advancing down the pitch to be bowled, during the period where England squeezed but they couldn't claim back-to-back wickets.
Dawson could have removed Guptill on 30 when a ball was drilled back to him but he didn't see it in his follow through and ended up jumping over the catch. Guptill did not need to bring out the same pyrotechnics as two days ago, batting in Munro's slipstream before kicking on to nearly close out the first part of the chase. He became Malan's first international wicket when he missed a sweep, leaving him with a handsome 237 runs in the tournament.
England's innings lurched along, although the end result was their best batting effort of the tri-series. The openers failed; Malan and Morgan forged a dominant 93-run stand; the innings stalled with a 27-ball period without a boundary; then it finished with a flurry of boundaries from Morgan and the allrounders.
Both Jason Roy and Alex Hales picked out mid-off as New Zealand quickly realised pace-off and cutters was the best route on this Seddon Park pitch. Malan, who can't get in England's one-day side, continued the prolific start to his T20 career to kick-start the innings and reached a 32-ball half-century.
By then Morgan had found his range as he took 18 in four deliveries off Mitchell Santner - his most convincing batting since this limited-overs period started in Australia - to carry England over the hundred mark inside 11 overs.
However, Malan's dismissal, picking out deep midwicket, led to a period that - in the final outcome - proved crucial as Colin de Grandhomme, Ish Sodhi and Tim Southee conceded only singles in more than four overs. Within that there was a moment of rare poor judgement from Jos Buttler who charged at Sodhi's final delivery and was beaten by a sharp legbreak.
With four overs to go, Morgan unleashed again, taking four sixes in nine balls off de Grandhomme and Trent Boult. Sam Billings, who has had chances, albeit in taxing circumstances in this tri-series, to show his talent, scooped into his stumps. When England's absent players return, Billings will find his spot under pressure.
Willey, Dawson and Jordan all struck strongly in the closing stages meaning that though Morgan only faced four balls in the last two overs England's total did not suffer. However, the maths was against England - deservedly so after three defeats - and the poor start with the ball meant the prospect of squeezing into the final disappeared as rapidly as Munro reached fifty.