England swapped a near perfect performance in last week's series opener for an abject showing in Tuesday's second Twenty20 International to slump to a heavy 55-run defeat in Hamilton.

Outgunning an opposition considerably superior in the ICC T20I rankings, eighth-placed New Zealand resigned the English from third to sixth on the table, and squared the three-match series one-all.

England's day was a peculiarly poor one, lined with a questionable preoccupation to bowl short and a severe inability to match the hosts' regular quest for the fence with the bat.

Skipper Stuart Broad's decision to bowl first on a pitch expected to aid the fast bowlers was undone by his choice of spinner James Tredwell to open the attack. Tredwell copped all sorts of expense in his opening over, and the trend was set.

Openers Hamish Rutherford and Martin Guptill laid a promising foundation thanks to a quickfire 75-run alliance in two deliveries more than eight overs, after which captain Brendon McCullum continued the dominance en route to a brisk half-century.

It was a telling knock from McCullum, whose 74 off a mere 38 balls included six fours and five sixes strewn across a reasonably small Seddon Park oval. The hard-hitting right-hander visibly cherished the knock, which largely answered questions over his ability to lead the side, keep wicket and deliver as a top-order batsman.

Seamer Jade Dernbach and all-rounder Luke Wright were the pick of the English bowlers for their three for 38 and two for 24 respectively. Key to their success was the regularity of slower balls, which fast bowlers Steven Finn and Broad failed to replicate.

England's pursuit was a particularly weak effort, highlighted by Wright's first-ball duck and entirely typified by just 27 runs scored between openers Alex Hales and Michael Lumb, the right-handed Jonny Bairstow and the left-handed Eoin Morgan.

The Black Caps will be acutely aware they should have wrapped up the result sooner, but instead dillydallied with the expensive trundle of waning seamer Grant Elliott.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler was quick to attack Elliott, spanking all of 20 runs off the right-armer's lone over. Buttler, in closing consolation, welcomed his maiden T20I half-century - and aspiring all-rounder Tredwell's cavalier 22 afforded him a career-best tally too.

The return of left-armer James Franklin, however, soon orchestrated the necessary. England's late resistance ultimately folded, giving Franklin figures of four for 15 - and New Zealand an important triumph ahead of Friday's series decider in Wellington.