Jos Buttler’s world champions could have clinched the series with victory in Birmingham following fine wins in Durham and Manchester, but the Black Caps were able to post an imposing 202-5 after deciding to bat first.
Finn Allen smashed three consecutive sixes off Adil Rashid on his way to 83 and Glenn Phillips contributed a rapid 69 before Ish Sodhi starred with the ball, finishing with 3-33.
Sodhi claimed the key scalps of Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook cheaply and when Mitchell Santner ended Buttler’s blistering innings of 40 off 21 balls, the hosts’ race was run despite the best efforts of Moeen Ali, who was England’s second top scorer with 26 in a below-par batting display.
England were eventually dismissed for 128 to disappoint a typically boisterous sun-soaked Edgbaston crowd and Buttler’s men now head to Nottingham with a narrow 2-1 lead aiming to secure a first T20 series success since they were crowned world champions last November.
After New Zealand decided to bat first, Allen set out his stall with two classy drives for four from Luke Wood’s first over.
The breakthrough arrived soon after though, when Allen pushed for three and opening partner Devon Conway was run out by Buttler for nine after Moeen’s strong throw from the deep.
Black Caps No 3 Tim Seifert struggled and was stumped by Buttler from a turning Liam Livingstone delivery for 19, but Allen remained unflustered.
Rashid and Livingstone were hit for maximums to help Allen bring up his 50 from 35 balls.
Rashid had managed to tie up an end and only went for 23 from his first three overs, but Allen sent him out of the attack with a bang after three successive sixes in the 15th over.
The first maximum was hit high over deep extra cover and Allen showed his range with another through cow corner before a stand and deliver shot down the ground moved him up to 77.
A second T20 century appeared in sight but Allen’s fine innings ended when he lost his off stump to Wood’s inswinging yorker to walk off for an excellent 83 off 53 balls.
Phillips had provided able support to Allen in a crucial 88-run partnership and upped the ante following the opener’s departure with Livingstone’s last over smashed for 22 to give the all-rounder expensive figures of 1-55.
Livingstone was pulled for back-to-back maximums by Phillips before the last ball of the 18th over was driven for another six, but Atkinson concluded the fun of the tourists’ number four.
The Surrey quick produced an excellent 77mph slower ball to bowl Phillips for 69 before he accounted for Daryl Mitchell caught behind to end with respectable figures of 2-31.
New Zealand still managed 202-5, which left England needing their third-highest T20 chase but they made a horrendous start.
Kyle Jamieson sent Will Jacks back for 11 and Dawid Malan produced a painful innings at three, scoring two runs before he hit Tim Southee to Conway at deep cover.
Malan’s dismissal after a scratchy 11-ball knock brought the in-form Brook to the crease but while his innings was eventful, it was also short-lived.
Brook, still reeling from being left out of England’s preliminary World Cup squad, got off the mark with a four but was dismissed in Sodhi’s second over.
He survived being given out lbw after a review showed he got glove on the delivery but Sodhi’s next ball was hit straight up in the air and Mitchell took the catch.
Sodhi had already dismissed Bairstow for 12 and England’s hopes of victory were pinned on captain Buttler.
Buttler, after he survived a tight lbw call, got off the mark with a six down the ground against Sodhi and hit another maximum off Santner after replays showed Allen grounded his foot over the boundary rope having initially caught the shot before attempting to throw it back to team-mate Mitchell.
Santner had the last laugh though when Buttler pulled him straight up in the air and the Black Caps spinner took the caught and bowled chance to end the England skipper’s counter-attack.
Moeen remained and hoicked Matt Henry over deep midwicket for six to bring up England’s hundred but he was one of two scalps in Jamieson’s third over as the hosts were convincingly beaten.
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