Dawid Malan became only the second England batsman to record a Twenty20 international hundred as his destructive display of power hitting led to a comprehensive 76-run victory over a chastened New Zealand in Napier.
The pair’s England best 182-run partnership formed the bedrock of their highest-ever total of 241 for three, with New Zealand getting nowhere close, all out for 165 after 16.5 overs, as the series was squared at 2-2 ahead of a decider in Auckland on Sunday.
Morgan was unable to follow his former Middlesex team-mate to three figures, falling for 91 from 41 deliveries in the final over, but it was the England captain’s arrival at the crease that saw a dramatic surge in tempo.
Malan had started slowly as he took 19 from his first 18 balls but he needed only a further 31 to reach three figures – beating Hales’ effort against Sri Lanka in Chittagong in 2014 by 12 deliveries.
After helping England overhaul their previous T20 best of 230 for eight against South Africa at the 2016 World Twenty20, Malan has immeasurably boosted his hopes of a squad berth in next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
His place was thought to be in jeopardy after a dramatic collapse in Nelson last time out but it was James Vince who made way for Jonny Bairstow, with Malan moving down to three in the order, as England were asked to bat first after losing the toss.
Bairstow made just eight before holing out to deep midwicket off Mitch Santner, who had Tom Banton trapped in front for 31 from 20 balls after the Somerset youngster missed a reverse sweep.
Banton had swelled England’s score after they had been 18 for one off four overs but it was Morgan who carried them into overdrive, swatting his fifth delivery over midwicket for six when leg-spinner Ish Sodhi dropped short.
Morgan was dropped on 11 as he looked to repeat the trick later in the over, Daryl Mitchell releasing the ball before his diving momentum took him over the boundary rope.
Morgan took six-four in Blair Tickner’s next over but a score of 88 for two at halfway gave no indication of the carnage that awaited in the final 10 overs.
Santner’s first two overs had yielded just six runs but his third went for 20, Malan and Morgan both clearing the rope off the slow left-armer, with the pair accelerating rapidly from thereon in.
Both batsmen expertly used the shorter boundaries square of the wicket to devastating effect, with back-to-back fours from Morgan taking him to a 21-ball fifty – bettering Jos Buttler‘s effort against Australia at Edgbaston last year by one delivery.
In the same over Malan had brought up his own 31-ball half-century – his sixth in nine T20 innings for England – before emphatically taking centre stage from Morgan, who was twice caught off waist-high no-balls.
New Zealand were becoming increasingly erratic and Malan capitalised against Sodhi, who was smashed to the tune of three sixes and two fours in the space of five balls.
He moved into the 90s by shovelling Trent Boult over midwicket for six before a full toss was given the same treatment, Malan greeting a sensational hundred with a fist pump.
Morgan seemed primed for a ton of his own as he flayed part-timer Mitchell, who conceded 25 in the penultimate over as England overtook their previous T20 best with six balls spare.
The England skipper creamed opposite number Tim Southee for six over the leg-side before a toe-edge was taken at deep cover, Morgan walking off the field to a standing ovation from those inside McLean Park.
The last ball, mercifully for New Zealand was a dot, but the damage was done as twilight set in in the only day-night affair in this five-match series.
Sodhi had yielded an eye-watering 49 from only three overs but fellow legbreak bowler Matt Parkinson took four for 47 on only his second England appearance.
New Zealand were forced to go for broke from the off and although there were some crowd-pleasing sixes, they were unable to fashion a dramatic chase.