England collapsed to a 55-run defeat as New Zealand levelled the three-match T20 series in style at Hamilton.
Stuart Broad, having overseen a 40-run victory in the opener, surprisingly opted to bowl first at Seddon Park, and it looked the wrong call as Brendon McCullum’s late fireworks boosted New Zealand’s total to 192 for six.
On another benign pitch with short boundaries, the required total still looked chaseable, but McCullum’s 38-ball 74 had swung the match decisively the way of the hosts.
The England wobble began when Mitchell McClenaghan scooped two wickets in two balls in the second over of the match.
The tourists never recovered, never got close to the required run rate, and only Jos Buttler’s brilliant 54 from 30 deliveries prevented a record-breaking margin of defeat and saved some face for England.
England, the 2010 World T20 champions, have now slid to sixth in the world rankings following the loss, after the defeat to lower-ranked opponents.
The series now goes to a decider in Wellington on Friday.
Broad admitted afterwards that he had got things wrong at the toss: "Yeah, it was the wrong decision, that's how it goes, but New Zealand outperformed us."
New Zealand's openers both made good starts against the off-spin of James Tredwell and the trio of seamers alike. Hamish Rutherford (40) and Martin Guptill (47) rode their luck with a couple of edgy strokes, but laid a platform with well-paced knocks.
In the end, Luke Wright was the pick of the attack, bowling four overs and picking up two wickets for 24, while Jade Dernbach, called upon to bowl three overs at the death, acquitted himself well with three wickets. England were also excellent in the field, defending a small boundary athletically.
But McCullum tucked in late on, particularly against Broad, whose four overs cost 53.
Broad's reckoning was that any score was chaseable under the lights, but a little bit of nibble for New Zealand's left-arm seamers soon put paid to that. Alex Hales and Wright, dismissed in successive balls, both looked shocked when McClenaghan beat them, while the returning Butler was miserly and stopped England building any momentum.
Jonny Bairstow (eight) fell to a mistimed pull, and Michael Lumb (17) and Eoin Morgan crawled along to leave England at 47 for four at the halfway stage of the innings.
Morgan, who had survived a stumping and been dropped in the deep, perished the next ball, and the game was all but up.
Buttler was superb, with a selection of ramp shots and pulverising boundaries to midwicket. Had he received better support - only Tredwell with a 22 from 11 provided anything meaningful - or been left with a more helpful platform, he might have been able to take England home.
As it was, though, England will have to hope that they resemble the side who won handsomely in Auckland if they are to take the series in Wellington.