There has been much talk in recent days of the way New Zealand play the game. Any of the team asked has accepted the enquiry with good grace as a compliment and reiterated just how they look after their own back yard.

Having inherited the captaincy from Brendon McCullum, the man credited with New Zealand's cricketing culture, Kane Williamson leads New Zealand's image on and off the field. When Williamson won the toss in Christchurch, he paused for a moment when asked why, then said all the right things about there being a bit of grass on the surface and the hope of some early movement.

He's too nice to say it, but he could easily have said: we just want to bowl at this England batting order again. Who would blame him after the 58 all out at Auckland. At 94 for 5 shortly after lunch, they were in sight of another decisive bowling performance, but England hauled themselves off the mat. Not, though, in a manner that answered many of their burning questions.

They made three changes in their attempt to level the series. The bowling ones made some sense; at least Mark Wood (presumably he was picked for his bowling) and Jack Leach offer the potential of something that hasn't been on show of late: pace and spin. The change in the batting was, well, uninspiring. England have a hierarchy in selection, and will have felt beholden to recall James Vince after he was only left out in Auckland because an extra bowler was needed to cover for Ben Stokes.

You'll probably know the end result by now if you are reading this: Vince lbw Southee 18. So he wasn't caught behind driving, but apart from that it was about as predictable as you could image. There were two straight drives to make a watcher purr but a sense that this wasn't going to last - then he played round a straight one from Tim Southee.

In 15 of his 21 Test innings Vince has reached double figures with two half-centuries - albeit they have both come since the start of the Ashes, which is why he was given another chance for this tour. But this England Test side is going round in circles, pretty unsteady ones at that.

Southee and Trent Boult again preyed on those shortcomings with more excellent seam and swing bowling. Alastair Cook was cleaned up by a beauty - although, at his best, Cook may well have covered it - Joe Root, almost out of nowhere having looked in excellent touch, missed a straight one from Southee, a crease-bound Dawid Malan was pinned lbw and Mark Stoneman undid more than two hours of graft with a poke outside off stump. If you feel you have read very similar things before, it's because you have. It's only because last week's 58 was so dire that this effort didn't feel quite so bad - and that doesn't even count as damning with faint praise.

The knock-on effect of Vince's return was that Stokes and Jonny Bairstow, two of England's three best batsmen, were now back at No 6 and 7 respectively. It didn't do them much good being a place higher in the first innings in Auckland - Bairstow, in particular, fell to two very poor dismissals - but it's difficult to believe that if England are to revive their Test form in the long term that these two should not have a role in positions where they can define an innings.

England coach Trevor Bayliss has talked of Stokes as a Test No. 5 more than once over the last 18 months and said his innings in Auckland had all the hallmarks of a proper top-order batsman. England had been horribly crease-bound in the (brief) first innings at Eden Park and no one tried to counter that more during the first part of this innings than Stokes, who regularly walked at Colin de Grandhomme's medium pace and was keen to get on the front foot to anything but the shortest of deliveries. It was a strangle that got him, edging Boult down the leg side straight after tea, although the bowler had spotted the tendency to move across the crease as he came down the pitch.

So it was over to Bairstow. In the Ashes he began the series at No. 7 (Moeen Ali was at No. 6) and was as low as No. 8 in Adelaide due to a nightwatchman, but thereafter he was moved up a slot in order to avoid being stranded with the tail. His response was a century in Perth. When Stuart Broad - at No. 8 for the first time since 2013 - limply drove to mid-off, Bairstow was again in danger of running out of partners and being wasted.

He is a wonderful batsman who you feel could average towards 50 in a specialist role. England are not in an era rich with Test-match quality batsmen, so they need to be smart about how they used their resources. The argument is often put forth that Adam Gilchrist rarely moved from No. 7 (or the example closer to home of Matt Prior) but they were part of much stronger top orders. If it means taking the gloves off him, maybe it would be worth it.

But this time he did not run out of team-mates. In fact, he was out-scored in the eighth-wicket stand - 52 to 39 - by the ebullient Wood who produced one of the most uplifting moments of England's dismal Test winter. At times there was a touch of Darren Gough (1994-95 vintage) in his counter-attacking. His fifty was a rare feel-good moment for the team. England were on the brink of a batting performance that would almost certainly have meant another defeat. In the longer term the recovery only papers over cracks, but for now they have a chance of some redemption.