Brendon McCullum's reign as New Zealand captain has been a fraught business so far, but mark down last night's 55-run win over England as his best night in the job.

The skipper ensured New Zealand would be giving England a sizeable challenge with a rollicking 74 off 38 balls, then oversaw a committed, penetrative bowling display a New Zealand squared the T20 series at Seddon Park.

The decider is at Wellington's Westpac Stadium on Friday night.

Having carried his team to 192 for six, McCullum then found his seamers, Mitchell McClenaghan and Ian Butler, bang on the job.


Left armer McClenaghan removed Alex Hales with a beauty, then dangerous Luke Wright with his third and fourth deliveries.

Butler, back after a two-year absence, took a wicket with his third ball, added a second, and walked away with terrific figures of two for nine off his four overs.

England were way behind the comparative rate from early on and at 47 for five, in 10.1 overs, there was no way back, eventually being dismissed for 137.

There was a late flourish in vain from in-form wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, 54 off 30 balls featuring scoop shots and rockets blasted back down the ground, before James Franklin cleaned up the tail.

The bowlers were backed up by urgent fielding, a dropped catch by Hamish Rutherford at deep square leg and McCullum missing a stumping off brother Nathan, the only blemishes.

For McCullum it was a night he should savour.

New Zealand won their ODI series in South Africa 2-1, after being squashed in the two tests, were well beaten at Eden Park in the ANZ international series opener last Saturday and needed this to shake off nagging fears of a grim few weeks to come.

New Zealand's innings, their second highest on Seddon Park after the 202 for five against Zimbabwe a year ago, was built on an opening stand of 75 in 8.2 overs between Martin Guptill and Hamish Rutherford.

The Otago lefthander's timing wasn't quite right - a top edged six off Stuart Broad could have gone anywhere, including over the wicketkeeper's head for six, which it did.

Still 58 runs off 38 balls in his first two innings for his country bodes well.

Guptill looked good before slapping spinner James Tredwell to deep square leg and thereafter the innings was down to McCullum.

He had just a single off his first seven balls, then got going with a booming six into the crowd at long on and was away.

Blockbusting drives and ferocious pull shots kept him sailing along, and five of the innings' 10 sixes were his.

He didn't get much support - Ross Taylor holing out just inside the mid wicket boundary for the second consecutive innings - but McCullum's first T20 half century in 10 innings was timely.

New Zealand seemed to have lost their way when they managed just 36 in a five-over spell from the 13th over but McCullum's pyrotechnics, to match the flame-throwers at one end of the ground, meant 38 came off the final two overs.