Heather Knight, Sophia Dunkley seal series for England with final-over victory
England 145 for 6 (Knight 42, Kasperek 3-25) beat New Zealand 144 for 4 (Devine 35, Bates 34) by four wickets
Heather Knight marked her return from injury with a nerveless innings to help seal a nail-biting victory for England at Taunton and clinch their T20I series against New Zealand 2-1.
Knight, playing her 200th game for England after missing the first two matches of this series with a hamstring problem, struck 42 off 36 balls to get her side most of the way to the target of 145 - although it took an equally calm Sophia Dunkley to see the hosts over the line with a boundary from the penultimate ball.
England's bowlers had contained New Zealand early before an unbroken stand of 36 from 14 balls between Brooke Halliday and Katey Martin took them to a competitive total. Leigh Kasperek's three wickets put England in danger at 97 for 4 but Knight steadied the innings during partnerships worth 55 with Amy Jones and 40 with Dunkley.
Knight fell with eight runs needed but Dunkley found the ropes from an Amy Satterthwaite full toss with one ball to spare.
The sight of Anya Shrubsole, who hadn't played any part in the series, on crutches and in a moon boot before play was of concern for the home side ahead of announcing their squad on Saturday for the five-match ODI series with New Zealand starting in Bristol next week. She sprained her ankle at training on Tuesday and, having undergone scans, will be assessed by team medical staff in the coming days.
Big three shackled
England's attack kept a lid on New Zealand's vaunted top order of Suzie Bates, making her 250th appearance for the White Ferns, Player of the Series Sophie Devine and Satterthwaite, all of whom have played more than 100 T20Is.
They scored only seven fours between them and while Bates and Devine made starts there was to be no reprise of the former's highest T20I score of 124 not out at the same ground against South Africa in the tri-series of 2018, nor of Devine's rousing half-century which allowed New Zealand to level the series against England at Hove on Saturday.
Tash Farrant missed a tough caught-and-bowled chance to dismiss Bates for 7 in the second over. But, after Bates swept her for four in front of square leg in the seventh over, Farrant responded with the next ball, sending leg stump cartwheeling with a fuller, straighter ball to dismiss Bates for 34 off 30.
After a brief stoppage when all four floodlight towers went out due to an electrical fault, Sarah Glenn removed Satterthwaite, who picked out Katherine Brunt - back after pulling up sore from the first match - at long-on. When Sophie Ecclestone beat Devine's attempted leg-side swipe with a ball that clattered into middle and leg, New Zealand were 90 for 3 in the 15th over.
But the tourists managed to score 50 off the last four overs, thanks largely to Halliday and Martin, who struck three fours each, contributing 25 and 13 respectively to lift their side.
Kasperek comes through
After a sedate start, Danni Wyatt struck Devine for four through midwicket and six over long-off in the third over to get the run chase moving. Jess Kerr struck in the next when Tammy Beaumont miscued to midwicket where Devine swallowed the catch. Wyatt carried on, however, helping herself to five more boundaries, including three on the trot off Kerr in the sixth over, through midwicket, cover and third as England finished the Powerplay 40 for 1 compared to New Zealand's 37 without loss.
But when Kasperek took two wickets in two balls, New Zealand were well and truly in the game. Expensive at Chelmsford, where she took 1 for 54, Kasperek claimed 3 for 25 from her four overs and ended the series as the leading wicket-taker with six at 16.50. She had Nat Sciver caught by Hayley Jensen at deep midwicket and then ended Wyatt's enterprising knock of 35 off just 23 balls, pulling to deep square leg where Thamsyn Newton took the catch. Amy Jones survived the hat-trick ball and she joined Knight in rebuilding the England innings.
After 10 overs, England were 66 for 3 compared to New Zealand's 61 for 1. Jones struck back-to-back fours off Satterthwaite's second over, the 12th of the innings, and Knight chimed in two balls later, punishing a full toss through backward square leg. But Kasperek returned to the attack in the 13th over and, after she was pulled for Jones' fifth boundary, she struck two balls later, luring Jones into an attempted slog and finding an edge on to the stumps.
Knight made a welcome comeback, striking five fours on the way to her score, including a slog-sweep off Kasperek's final over which bounced and cleared Newton at deep square leg and another off Devine through midwicket in the 19th. When she picked out Bates at mid-off from Devine's penultimate ball, England needed eight off seven balls. Maia Bouchier, playing just her second match after making her international debut in the previous game, was bowled by Satterthwaite on the first ball of the final over, heaping the pressure on the hosts.
But Brunt and Dunkley, who had held their nerve with a 92-run stand to defeat India, also at Taunton, during their ODI series earlier in the summer, did so again in truncated style. A single to Brunt followed by a hard-run two to Dunkley left England needing four off the last two balls. Dunkley needed just one, smashing a four through midwicket to seal the match and the series.