New Zealand will face Australia in the final of the Trans-Tasman Tri-Series despite losing to England by two runs in a deciding Twenty20 international on Sunday. Captain Eoin Morgan returned from injury to help England avoid its fourth-straight loss in the series, scoring an unbeaten 80 from 46 balls and sharing a partnership of 93 with Dawid Malan (53) in England's innings of 194/7.
But outstanding bowling near the death by Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan and Tom Curran saw England hold New Zealand to 192/4 in its 20 overs. Unfortunately for England, New Zealand only needed to reach 175 to ensure it qualified for the final on run rate as both teams finished the series with one win.
Australia had already qualified unbeaten in its four matches and is favoured to win the final, which will be played on the same pitch where it beat New Zealand by five wickets in the highest T20 run chase in history three days ago.
Morgan, who played the opening match of the series against Australia, then missed two matches with a groin strain, returned to reclaim the captaincy from Jos Buttler and produce a Man of the Match performance. But was left disappointed that although it ended England's losing streak in T20s, it was still not enough.
"It feels not that good, to be honest," Morgan said. "We obviously don't go through to the final, which is disappointing.
"174 was the target we were trying to defend. We created chances at stages but given the start, they got off to with Colin Munro and Martin Guptill in that sort of form...we weren't able to do it.
"I thought we fought really well but it was sort of the story of our trip: good enough to win the game but not good enough to go through to the final."
Malan steadied the England innings with his half-century from 32 balls — his third 50 of the series — and Morgan went on to guide England to a highly competitive total. He posted his half-century from 35 balls and took his 80 runs from 46 balls with four fours and six sixes in the decisive innings of the match.
New Zealand arrested England's rapid progress a little through good spells by Ish Sodhi and Colin de Grandhomme in the middle of the innings. Southee took 2-22 and Trent Boult 3-50 from their four-over spells.
The England total seemed to shrink when Munro went on the offensive from the outset, hitting four sixes and 28 runs from the first nine balls he faced as New Zealand reached 30 after only two overs.
He rushed on to 42 from 15 balls and to his half-century — the seventh of his career — from only 18 deliveries, four balls short of his fastest in T20 Internationals.
New Zealand was 78-1 when he was out in the seventh over and with its run chase well advanced, the home team felt that it could afford to take a slow and measured approach to the remainder of its innings.
Guptill reached his 14th T20 international half-century from 44 balls and helped New Zealand to 164/3 with 21 balls remaining. But though New Zealand clinched its place in the final when it edged past 175, it wasn't able to complete a winning run chase.
Rashid bowled his four overs for 22 runs, claiming the wicket of Munro and significantly slowing New Zealand's progress.
New Zealand needed 21 runs to win from the last two overs but Chris Jordan produced a series of yorkers in the 19th over that tied down young New Zealand batsman Mark Chapman.
Curran, whose first over had cost 17 runs, then bowled a superb last over from which New Zealand needed 12 runs for victory. He allowed only a single boundary and denied Colin de Grandhomme who needed to hit four from the last ball.
"We wanted to win," New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said. "England played very well today and it was a great game of cricket.
"Spirits are high in our camp and guys are looking forward to the final."