An international cricket ground is a large space. Thousands of cars could be parked on one. Put 11 sprightly men on it, marshalled by an attacking captain with a battery of accurate bowlers to call upon though, the gaps on it can shrink drastically. On Friday against New Zealand, despite the sunshine and crisp air in Wellington, England's batsmen would have found the Regional Stadium as claustrophobic as a windowless solitary confinement cell.

It shrunk when Brendon McCullum batted as well - to the size of a backyard - as he blazed a trail of sixes and fours to complete the demolition of England inside 46 overs. His 77 off 25 balls in the chase - McCullum broke his own record for the fastest World Cup fifty - was the perfect celebration of the way New Zealand had performed to dismiss England for 123, because it ensured the strong and appreciative crowd had seen everything. They had been entertained by swing bowling and fielding of a rare standard, and now they had their fill of aggressive shots. They wouldn't have complained that all of it was from New Zealand.

McCullum was buzzing with adrenaline when he went in to bat, because he had been both fulcrum and spearhead of a bowling and fielding display that was an outlier to the performances of more human teams. On the eve of this match, he had spoken of a blueprint his team followed and it probably has one word on every page - attack, in bold and large print. His team could borrow the country's tourism department's catchphrase to trademark the way they played - 100% Pure New Zealand.

McCullum was everywhere: sprinting to his right from mid-off and diving to cut off shots before they entered the unmanned expanses beyond the 30-yard circle, flying from short cover and midwicket with arm flung out behind him to pull down balls that had already passed his body, racing from mid-off towards long-on to chase down a well-timed drive just inside the boundary, and even running full-tilt after shots he had no hope stopping.

His team-mates followed his example perfectly. Adam Milne ran hard towards third man and dived to save a four, and then pulled off running and full-length diving catch at long-on to dismiss Eoin Morgan - feats that few fast bowlers would have been capable of. Daniel Vettori hurried to get behind a stinging throw from his captain to prevent overthrows. Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill and Corey Anderson threw themselves around at gully and slips. And at one point there were four fielders rushing to back up a throw to Luke Ronchi, and not because his wicketkeeping is dodgy.

New Zealand's astuteness in the field combined with remarkable ground speed made for an incredible spectacle, and each one was met with a roar from the full house.

And then there was the captaincy. Whenever a fast bowler was operating McCullum employed his catchers. Sometimes there were four slips in the cordon, sometimes there were two. But there was always at least one. A gully was a near-permanent fixture and men prowled at short cover and midwicket. The swinging ball and unrelenting accuracy from New Zealand's bowlers kept McCullum's field in play throughout, and when England met their bitter end, more people were catching than not.

That end was hastened when McCullum decided to try and wipe England out as soon as Morgan was dismissed in the 25th over, with his team on 104 for 4. He brought back Tim Southee, and it was a decision that culminated in New Zealand's premier bowler breaking the national record for the best ODI figures.

"Got the [Morgan] wicket, and Brendon thought it was a chance to attack and put the foot down," Southee said, after finishing with 7 for 33. "It's one of those moves - he makes the play, it comes off, and it couldn't have been a better move."

Southee added that New Zealand's approach began with their captain. "We've seen over the last … however long Brendon has been in charge, he's an aggressive captain and the way he plays his cricket is aggressive," he said. "As bowlers that gives you the confidence to go out knowing the captain is right in behind you with setting these attacking fields.

"Our fielding, it's an attitude. We've prided ourselves on being one of the best fielding sides in the world for a number of years now. It is an attitude thing that's led by Brendon himself, the way he throws himself around in the field. And if he's doing that then it sets the standard for the rest of the team to follow."

At no stage of their innings did England have an inch of breathing room and Morgan, looking rather shell-shocked, gave New Zealand their due. "Probably the best bowling display we've come across since we've been down this side of the world, which says a lot considering we played against Australia," he said. "But today we couldn't cope with it."

If New Zealand are able to rev themselves up to such a gear against Australia a week from now in Auckland, the tournament favourites will have challenges to cope with it too.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo