Santner and Neesham star as New Zealand square the series
New Zealand 176 for 8 (Neesham 42, Guptill 41, Jordan 3-23) beat England 155 (Malan 39, Santner 3-25) by 21 runs
On a day when sporting smiles were just beginning to flicker back across Kiwi faces, thanks to the schadenfreude being dished out by the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama, New Zealand's cricketers added their own pinch of salt to English wounds by squaring the T20I series at Wellington with a comprehensive 21-run win.
The echoing confines of the Cake Tin told their own story about the lack of real jeopardy in this contest - for the average New Zealander, this result could barely atone for a bad journey to work, let alone the insults doled out in recent months by English sporting teams in their two national sports. But a win is a win is a win. And New Zealand won. And England didn't. So there.
Mitchell Santner starred with the ball for New Zealand, claiming three wickets with his left-arm spin on a day when his side held onto their chances in the deep, and England emphatically did not. And despite battling hard with the ball to keep their opponents to a taxing but not insurmountable 177 for victory, the loss of three wickets in the Powerplay left them with too much to do as they ran out of time and wickets.
England won the toss and chose to bowl first, just as they had done in their emphatic win in Christchurch on Friday. But they encountered a New Zealand line-up in a more forceful mood than they had been in the first match, not least Martin Guptill, who greeted the debutant Saqib Mahmood with a monstrous second-ball wipe for six over long-on, before Colin Munro repeated the dose over square leg in the same over.
To put it kindly, it was an uneven performance from England in the field. Two players excelled - namely Sam Curran, who was a waspish threat with the new ball before applying a tourniquet in the middle overs for figures of 1 for 22 in his four overs, and Chris Jordan, who would at one stage have claimed three wickets for two runs in nine perfectly mixed-up death-over deliveries, had Dawid Malan at deep midwicket not dropped England's fourth and most clear-cut opportunity of a ropey catching display.
Aside from those two, however, England struggled for control on an even-paced wicket that offered value for strokes and no place to hide for any bowler who missed his mark. Pat Brown, impressive on debut in Christchurch, was cannon-fodder on Wellington's shorter square boundaries, as New Zealand's batsmen feasted on his variations - his first over was dispatched for 17, including back-to-back fours for Guptill, a mown six for Tim Seifert and one of three dropped catches for the hapless James Vince. Brown returned for another foray in the ninth over, but this time Colin de Grandhomme sent him off to pasture for the remainder of the innings with consecutive hoicks for six over the leg side.
And yet, in spite of England's leakiness, they kept themselves in the contest, thanks in part to a series of New Zealand contributions that never quite developed from cameo status. Guptill, in particular, could be heard groaning audibly after top-edging an Adil Rashid long-hop to deep square leg just when it seemed he was rediscovering his long-lost mojo - even so, his 41 from 28 balls was still his best innings for New Zealand in 12 attempts dating back to the first week of the World Cup.
De Grandhomme, likewise, had something more formidable in mind than his eventual 28 from 17, though he was undone by the ball of the innings from Christchurch's forgotten debutant. Lewis Gregory had neither batted nor bowled on his actual England debut on Friday, but with Brown out of sorts, his zippy seamers were called upon for the first time in international cricket - and one delivery was all he needed to make his mark, a perfect wicket-to-wicket ball pegging back de Grandhomme's off stump via a thin deflection off the pad. It was the 17th time that a player had claimed a wicket with his first ball in T20Is, and only the second Englishman … after Joe Denly, remarkably, in his first England incarnation in 2009.
From a halfway scoreline of 96 for 3, New Zealand had designs on a total nearer to 200 than 180, but in the end they were indebted to a fine cameo of 42 from 22 balls from Jimmy Neesham, a man with unfinished business against England, after the agony of his near-heroic role in the World Cup Super Over, but who was playing his first T20I since 2017 after coming into the side in place of Scott Kuggeleijn.
Neesham needed a stroke of early luck on 4 - though given the state of England's outfielding, to call another Vince drop, this time at deep midwicket, unlucky would be a misrepresention. But, having found his range, Neesham started to find the boundary at will, four soaring sixes keeping the innings pumping in spite of Jordan's best spoiling efforts.
Chasing 177, England were rattled from the outset as Jonny Bairstow chipped Tim Southee's first ball of the innings straight to mid-on for a golden duck, before James Vince - Friday's batting star - flogged Lockie Ferguson's second ball to deep point for 1. A scoreline of 3 for 2 after eight balls wasn't quite the launchpad they had envisaged.
True to their recent white-ball reputation, England refused to take a backward step in adversity - but despite a spray of aggression in his 17-ball 32, Eoin Morgan's dismissal to a wild wipe down the ground against Mitchell Santner was a sign of things to come. Sam Billings, once again struggling to convert his talent into output, fell in identikit fashion off Ish Sodhi four overs later, before Santner again did for Sam Curran in the 11th over - de Grandhomme circling beneath the ball on each and every occasion.
Dawid Malan briefly threatened to keep England's fires burning with a brace of sixes in his 39 from 29 balls, but Sodhi's slider induced a flat slash to Guptill at long-off, and with 83 needed from 48 balls and just four wickets in hand, the end was very much nigh.
Chris Jordan hadn't quite given up the ghost - a 24-run over off Sodhi, including three consecutive wipes for six - kept England just about in touch with that mounting run-rate. But another tossed-up delivery led to another catch down the ground, as Santner avenged his spin twin with Guptill once more the safe pair of hands.
At 134 for 7, the game was now officially up. Lewis Gregory had time to smack his maiden international six, in the manner so beloved by the Taunton faithful, before holing out one ball later, and it looked for a time as though England could become the first T20 team to lose all ten of their wickets to catches before Adil Rashid had a hack at Daryl Mitchell to leave his stumps splattered with one ball of the innings unused.