Having impressed in the first two matches, England showed they are still learning how to manage their expansive style as they were bowled out for 302 with 4.4 overs unused.
Brilliant centuries from Kane Williamson (118) and Ross Taylor (110) then set the Black Caps on their way to victory, reaching their target with 6 balls to spare after a late-innings wobble.
But England will rue both their failure to bat out their overs and four dropped catches in the middle of New Zealand’s response as they fall 2-1 down in the five-match series ahead of the fourth ODI at Trent Bridge on Wednesday.
After winning the toss and electing to bat under grey skies on the south coast, England had Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes all hit contrasting half-centuries only to then collapse from 288-5 in just four overs.
While Root was typically stylish, Morgan was inventive and Stokes brutal, but none of the three could go on to anchor the innings and New Zealand’s own trio of Tim Southee, Ben Wheeler and Matt Henry were excellent in sharing eight wickets between them.
Alex Hales and Jason Roy had given England a solid start, Hales cracking 23 from 21 balls before he fended debutant Wheeler to Southee, who then clean bowled Roy (9) to leave the hosts 34-2.
Root and Morgan looked fluent and composed though, adding 105 in 19 overs for the third wicket only for Root to misjudge his skip down wicket to Mitchell Santner and deflect the ball onto his stumps.
Unbowed, Morgan clubbed Santner for two big sixes in an 82-ball 71, but as he moved through the gears, a swish across the line failed to make contact and Williamson made the crucial breakthrough at 194-4.
Jos Buttler (13) soon followed chasing a wide one and nicking off and although a spritely 34 from 16 from Sam Billings was ended when he became Wheeler’s second victim, England still looked in solid shape with Stokes, who hoiked a huge six over square-leg and bring up his 50 in just 31 balls.
Adil Rashid’s first-ball dismissal – fending off Henry to Guptill at point – then suggested England might struggle to bat out their remaining eight overs at 290-7, but Stokes was undeterred and continued to slog, eventually bowled by the promising Wheeler for 68 and with the tail exposed, David Willey and Mark Wood could do little but inch England past 300.
New Zealand’s chase suffered a faltering start as Martin Guptill was trapped plumb in front by a Willey inswinger, before Wood trapped Brendon McCullum at 36-2.??
But Williamson and Taylor were brilliant in response – Williamson reaching a chanceless century in 88 balls and only eventually falling when Wood, having dropped the simplest of chances at mid-off two overs earlier, redeemed himself with an acrobatic take to earn Willey his second wicket and bring an end to New Zealand’s highest 3rd-wicket partnership in 50-over cricket.
Taylor – dropped by Jos Buttler off Wood on 67 and then again by Stokes five runs later off the same bowler – reached his 14th ODI hundred in 105 balls.
Rashid then removed Grant Elliot – Joe Root taking the catch at slip – to induce a minor wobble in the tourists’ dressing room and when Mitchell Santner flashed at Stokes ??- Root again taking the catch – there was palpable frustration from England at what might have been.
Taylor’s dismissal – bowled by the impressive Willey (3-69) – left New Zealand 290-6 and Luke Ronchi was then deceived by a Stokes slower-ball at 300-7, but there was to be no heroic ending for England as Southee saw his team to their target with a lofted drive over extra cover.