England began their tour of New Zealand on Tuesday in pretty much the same way as they spent much of their long and demanding visit to Australia – coming off second best to a much sharper side.
It meant they lost for the third time in three matches in this Twenty20 tri-series that straddles both countries and now need a near miracle if they are to reach the final against Australia next week in Auckland.
England, after shuffling their bowling to bring back the pace of Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett, simply conceded too many runs here at the Westpac Stadium in failing to stop New Zealand racking up 196 for five.
England No 3 Dawid Malan top-scored for the tourists with 59 off 40 balls before being caught
David Willey was run out as England looked to chase down New Zealand’s first-innings score
Both sides came into the clash on the back of defeats by Australia in the tri-series tournament
Liam Plunkett was one of a number of England batsmen that fell in the final few overs
Then they lost wickets at bad times, notably Jos Buttler, again deputising as captain for the injured Eoin Morgan, on two to fall 13 runs short in what is becoming a desperately disappointing tournament for them.
Only Dawid Malan, with his third half-century in his first four Twenty20 internationals, offered any hope for England, who just cannot replicate their dynamic one-day form in the shorter limited-overs game here.
Now England need Australia to beat New Zealand in Auckland on Friday and then defeat them heavily themselves in the final qualifier in Hamilton on Sunday if they are to have a chance of winning their first Twenty20 tri-series.
It could have been a much better night for England had Wood run out Williamson before he had scored but he missed the stumps from no more than five metres after the New Zealand captain attempted a suicidal single.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson made a brilliant 72 off only 46 balls for the home side
Williamson was eventually bowled by Chris Jordan during the game in Wellington on Tuesday
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid took two wickets for the tourists but went for 36 off his four overs
That was the start of a difficult evening for England’s fastest bowler even though he was to take two wickets, Wood’s pace disappearing for 51 off his four overs on his return to the side.
It was Williamson, who was an injury doubt ahead of this match, who was at the heart of an impressive batting display from New Zealand as he made his first Twenty20 half-century in over a year and added 82 with Martin Guptill.
The curious-looking mottled drop-in pitch at the stadium known locally as the ‘cake tin’ had caused consternation ahead of the match but played perfectly well as England suffered for not taking enough pace off the ball.
Williamson did provide another half-chance with a full-blooded straight drive on 37 but Adil Rashid attempted a one-handed return catch off his own bowling and could not hold on.
Rashid was to have his moment when he took the wickets of Guptill and Colin de Grandhomme off successive balls but there was little England could do to stop Williamson reaching 72 off 46 balls with four sixes.
Jordan took a spectacular catch on the boundary to dismiss Colin de Grandhomme
Tim Seifert added some quick runs for New Zealand, hitting 14 off only six balls
Big-hitting opener Martin Guptill also reached his half-century, finishing on 65 off 40 balls
It took Chris Jordan to stop one of the best batsmen in the world in his tracks when he bowled him during a superb 18th over that cost only three runs but his best moment in the field was to come when he wasn’t bowling.
Jordan, surely the best all-round fielder in England, leapt with seemingly minimal effort to take a stunning one-handed boundary catch to send back De Grandhomme first ball and set an example his team-mates struggled to match.
When Tim Seifert, one of two debutants in the New Zealand side along with Mark Chapman, hit two sixes off the last over bowled by Jordan New Zealand had given themselves an excellent chance of their first win in this tournament.
England again did not help themselves when Alex Hales, to an Ish Sodhi long-hop, and James Vince, to a lazy piece of running, threw their wickets away, Williamson showing Wood how a direct hit from close range should be done.
When Buttler was caught on the boundary off the leg-spin of Sodhi the writing was on the wall for England and they went down swinging wildly and unproductively.