Jos Buttler top-scored for England in the opening ODI at Seddon Park, but two fumbles behind the stumps aided New Zealand's path to a final-over victory. Between well-matched sides, Buttler conceded that England need to be better at converting those chances into wickets.

Buttler's first mistake gave Tom Latham a life on 47, a thin edge down the leg side off Adil Rashid, then late in the chase he couldn't cleanly glove a stumping opportunity that would have dismissed Tim Southee first ball - the delivery after Ross Taylor was stumped - and left Mitchell Santner with the less secure support of Ish Sodhi and Trent Boult to try and secure victory.

He also failed to gather a return that would have run out Colin de Grandhomme, but that didn't prove costly - save for the one extra run - as de Grandhomme fell to Ben Stokes next ball, the moment when the returning allrounder appeared to be winning the match for England

Buttler, though, wasn't the only culprit with Jonny Bairstow spilling a chance - albeit a tough one - in the deep off Latham, although again the cost was minimal as Latham fell next over. However, in a game decided with just four balls remaining every run mattered. England's ground fielding also became a touch ragged during the latter part of the chase, although the dew may have been a factor.

"I think we can be sharper in the field," Buttler said. "I think we were a little bit sloppy for our standards - especially on small grounds like that, defending the boundary and shot-stopping in the ring obviously highlights it because the ball runs away. That's an area we need to improve. We missed a few chances as well. To try and create wicket-taking opportunities when two good players get in in a partnership in one-day cricket, the half-chances we need to try and take them."

Buttler's innings - 79 off 65 balls - did not include the late onslaught that is so often a feature of his game, and was witnessed with such impact at Sydney last month. That was largely due to the skill of Southee and Boult in the closing overs, with Buttler saying he felt back to somewhere near his best after a scratchy T20 tri-series.

Southee, who Buttler spent two years with at the IPL as part of Mumbai Indians, made smart use of slower deliveries which, coupled with a sluggish pitch, meant the batsman had to do all the work. Southee only erred once to costly effect against Buttler in his final three overs, dragging down the first ball of his last over which was deposited for six, but otherwise didn't go for more than a single against him at the death.

"It's quite a fun battle having spent a lot of time with someone who knows the strength of your game, but I've also tried to read his game and stuff like that," Buttler said. "But he bowled really well and it's something I'm very aware of - sides try and take pace off to me."

That's the name of the limited-overs game: always staying one step ahead.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo