Ashton Agar returned 6 for 30, Australia's best T20I figures
4 for 208 (Maxwell 70, Finch 69, Philippe 43, Sodhi 2-32) beat
144 (Guptill 43, Agar 6-30, Meredith 2-24) by 64 runs
Aaron Finch emerged from his T20 slump with his first half-century in 27 innings, Glenn Maxwell turned on the pyrotechnics with some thrilling strokeplay, and Ashton Agar bettered his own record for Australia's best T20I figures as they kept the series alive with a 64-run victory in the third game at an empty stadium in Wellington.
Riley Meredith made an eye-catching debut with his pace helping take crucial early wickets even as New Zealand initially managed to keep up with the steep asking rate, but couldn't maintain it to make a serious dip at the target.
In the first half, the foundation for Australia was laid by a stand of 83 between Finch and Josh Philippe, and the latter part of the innings was powered by Maxwell's 31-ball 70 of which 62 runs came in boundaries. The eight overs from 10 to 18 brought 105 runs before New Zealand pulled it back somewhat.
Martin Guptill and Devon Conway played well in the chase, but Agar took three wickets in the 13th over to end the contest on his way to a six-wicket haul - just the fourth bowler to achieve that feat in T20Is while also becoming the sixth to take multiple five-wicket hauls in the format.
Glenn Maxwell turned on the pyrotechnics
It was a matter of millimetres between Finch's lean run continuing and the turnaround he was able to achieve. Facing his first ball of the match from Tim Southee, a good-length delivery seamed back in to the pads - an angle of attack that has often troubled Finch - and brought a huge lbw appeal. It was given not out on the field and New Zealand reviewed with Finch saved by umpire's call, the ball taking a good chunk of leg stump but not quite enough.
On such things can fortunes change. In the third over, he got off the mark with a confident drive down the ground off Southee and slowly started to find his stride. The strong driving and square-of-the-wicket shots that are Finch trademarks were back on display, and then his half-century came with a switch hit against Ish Sodhi for six. When he took three fours off Trent Boult's third over there was time for him to add to his T20 hundreds, but he was cut off by Sodhi when he skewed a catch to short third-man.
By the time Finch departed, Maxwell was up and running but took things up a level in the 17th over when he hammered Jimmy Neesham for 28 with four fours and two sixes. It had been the almost-ideal scenario for Maxwell: a foundation to build on but still plenty of overs to maximise his impact. He had actually taken time to play himself in - reaching 10 off 11 balls and later admitting he had struggled early on - but in the space of that over against Neesham, he brought up his half-century from 25 deliveries. The full Maxwell range was on show as he reverse-ramped Southee and then used his more conventional playbook to take down Neesham. When he launched his fifth six to reach 70 with two overs remaining, it wasn't beyond the realms to push for a hundred, but an attempted reverse scoop was caught by Tim Seifert behind the stumps.
Riley Meredith took two wickets on T20I debut
Meredith, who became the most expensive uncapped overseas player in the IPL when he secured his deal with the Punjab Kings last month, had the luxury of a big target to defend in his first bowl at international level. As he does in the BBL, he was quickly pushing the speed gun towards 150kph (much to the excitement of his biggest fan, Shane Warne, in the commentary box) although his third delivery was deposited over long-off for six by Guptill. However, with his sixth delivery he removed Seifert, who skied a catch to cover where Marcus Stoinis did well to steady himself. In his second over, he claimed the key scalp of Kane Williamson with a fuller ball that hammered into the pads to ensure inroads were made despite a strong New Zealand run rate.
The latter part of New Zealand's chase unravelled quickly. Adam Zampa claimed the key wicket of Guptill, caught at long-off by Agar, who then took charge with ball in hand after having had his first over taken for three boundaries by Conway. The asking rate was above 12 and Agar fed off the need for batsmen to attack, removing Glenn Phillips, Conway and Neesham in the same over. He will need to bowl in more pressure situations but his spin-bowling partner, Zampa, helped him with his five-for when he managed to hold a catch that swirled in the Wellington wind then a wicket with his last ball put him among a small group of T20I bowlers.