Glenn Maxwell dashed 70 from 31 balls, Aaron Finch returned to form with 69 and Ashton Agar took a career-best 6-30 as Australia beat New Zealand by 64 runs in the third Twenty20 international on Wednesday to keep the five-match series alive.

Maxwell reached a half century from 25 balls during an over in which he hit 28 runs _ two sixes and four fours _ from the bowling of Jimmy Neesham. At its end, his innings included eight fours and five sixes and set Australia on course to its commanding total of 208-4.

Tall Tasmania fast bowler Riley Meredith took 2-24 in his international debut, then Agar claimed six wickets in succession to stifle New Zealand’s reply. The home team was bowled out for 144 in 17.1 overs.

Meredith dismissed Tim Seifert (4) in his first over and claimed the prized wicket of New Zealand captain Kane Williamson (9) in his second to put New Zealand under pressure early.

Agar first dismissed Devon Conway (38), then took the wickets of Glenn Phillips (13), Neesham (0) and Tim Southee (5) in the space of five deliveries, suppressing New Zealand’s dangerous lower middle order. He removed Mark Chapman (18) and Kyle Jamieson (11) to snuff out any chance of a late rally and achieve his second five-wicket bag in T20 internationals.

“It’s always good to get wickets, particularly when you go wicketless in the first two (matches),” Agar said. “But when you have 200 on the board it makes my job a lot easier.

“The boys bowled beautifully up front and I was lucky to have a great team around me.”

Finch rediscovered his form after a lean Big Bash season and after making only 12 and 1 in the first two

matches of the current series which New Zealand won by 53 runs and four runs, respectively. His 69 in partnerships of 83 with Josh Philippe (43) and 64 with Maxwell set a strong foundation for Australia’s innings.

Finch survived two confident lbw appeals in the first over, then hit his stride, striking the ball powerfully down the ground and over the leg side to reach his half century from 34 balls with a six from a free hit off Ish Sodhi.

His partnership with Philippe gave Australia a strong tempo which saw it reach 38 after five over and 89 at the mid-point of its innings.

Philippe, who made 2 on debut in Christchurch, followed his 45 in Dunedin with another impressive innings of 43 from 27 balls.

Maxwell took the tempo from new heights, using an impressive array of shots both orthodox and unorthodox. He used ramp shots to take advantage of vacant third man or simply muscled the ball over the large boundaries at Wellington’s regional stadium where the match was played without spectators.

Maxwell said he struggled at first to get the pace of the pitch and took only three runs _ all singles _ from the first seven balls he faced before hitting his first boundary. From then on, boundaries came as a torrent, notably in the 17th over when he took the long handle to Neesham and went from 30 to 58.

His innings was full of improvisation and he even changed hands at one point.

“I wasn’t doing much good right-handed so I thought I’d try left-handed,” he said.

Maxwell was out to the last ball of the 18th over with Australia 194-4 and it didn’t fully capitalize, adding only 14 runs from the last two overs.

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