Ben Stokes played six matches for Canterbury in New Zealand domestic cricket in December
Ben Stokes scored 12 and took 2-43 as his first England match for five months ended in a three-wicket defeat by New Zealand in Hamilton.
Ross Taylor made 113 and Tom Latham 79 as New Zealand recovered from 27-3 in the first match of the one-day series.
Mitchell Santner hit 45 not out off 27 balls, including a six to seal victory with four balls to spare.
Joe Root, rested for the Twenty20 tri-series, made 71 and Jos Buttler 79 in England's 284-8 at Seddon Park.
With 34 needed off 18 balls and Taylor having been stumped off Adil Rashid, New Zealand's hopes were fading.
But Santner reduced that equation to nine off the final six balls, before edging a Chris Woakes yorker for four and smashing a six over mid-wicket after a wide.
All-rounder Stokes appeared in court this month on a charge of affray and the first hearing of his trial is scheduled for 12 March at Bristol Crown Court, although he is not required to return to the UK to attend it.
He missed the Ashes defeat in Australia, the one-day series win over Australia and the T20 series also involving New Zealand, in which England failed to qualify for the final.
The next ODI in the five-match series takes place at Mount Maunganui at 01:00 GMT on Wednesday.
How did Stokes fare on his comeback?
The slow wicket in Hamilton was not conducive to shot-making and Stokes came in at number five with the score at 104-3 in the 22nd over.
He was dropped on two when Trent Boult could not clasp a firmly struck straight drive in his follow-through, but after one reverse-swept four, Stokes succumbed to a sweep at slow left-armer Santner, which took the top edge and looped to Taylor running to his right at short third man.
In the field, Stokes was brought on as second change to bowl the 13th over and his opening four-over spell returned 0-15.
By then, he had already played a part in the dismissal of Martin Guptill, the top run-scorer in the T20 tri-series, taking a neat catch above his head in the covers.
With New Zealand looking comfortable, Stokes tempted Latham into a pull that was smartly taken at mid-on and he soon added the scalp of Colin de Grandhomme with an extravagant looping slower ball that was edged to the keeper.
Playing his first game since 24 September, Stokes did not bowl again after his eighth over - the 44th of the New Zealand innings - cost 11 runs.
Ross Taylor compiled an assured 18th century in his 202nd one-day international
Kiwis claim thrilling victory
Guptill and Munro, New Zealand's powerhouse opening pair who made 132 against Australia and hammered 76 from six overs against England in the T20 series, both fell cheaply - and prolific captain Kane Williamson departed in the 10th over.
But Taylor reached fifty from 59 balls and Latham, dropped by Buttler off Rashid on 47, reached his half-century from 55 balls in the next over.
Williamson's decision to bat second increased in significance as the dew under the lights made the ball easier for the home batsmen to play their strokes.
With 84 needed from 11.1 overs, Jonny Bairstow misjudged a chance at deep mid-wicket offered by Latham off Tom Curran - but Stokes broke the partnership of 178 as New Zealand lost three wickets for 10 runs in 13 balls.
Taylor reached three figures from 109 balls, but with 41 left to score, leg-spinner Rashid beat him with a beautifully flighted, turning delivery that offered Buttler a routine stumping.
However, Santner dispatched Rashid for successive leg-side sixes to reduce the requirement to 22 from 16 balls, and with only nine needed from the final over bowled by Woakes, the left-hander launched the fourth maximum of a stunning knock.
Root and Buttler revive England
It was another of England's returning big guns - Test captain Root - who held their innings together on the used surface.
The Yorkshire batsman adapted to the conditions superbly and reached a 27th ODI fifty from 53 balls with his customary calm authority.
He survived an extremely difficult chance in the covers on 69 - one of four put down by the New Zealanders - but was deceived by an even slower one from the already slow-medium Colin Munro that dislodged his off stump.
Buttler took eight balls to get off the mark, but in the 32nd over dispatched Ish Sodhi for three successive sixes into the long-on region - one of which was measured at 97m.
England Test captain Joe Root averages 51 in 103 one-day internationals
'It was a hell of a game' - post-match reaction
Ross Taylor, named man of the match for his 113 off 116 balls:"It was a hell of a game.England posted a tough total.The partnership with Tom was outstanding and Sants finished it off - that was the difference.
"Apart from Root, everyone struggled at the start of their innings.Tom manipulated the ball very well - it's a pleasure to bat with him.We were able to take it deep and were lucky to get the win."
England captain Eoin Morgan: "There was not much between the sides.It was a competitive game and we posted a good score on the board.
"When we broke that partnership between Ross Taylor and Tom Latham we were in the game, but didn't quite have enough in the tank.New Zealand were the better side and just got the upper hand.It was a great game of cricket to be part of."
Former England batsman James Taylor on BBC Test Match Special:"There were a lot of mistakes in the field from England.Jos Buttler also had a poor night behind the stumps.
"With the ball they were OK and with the bat there is certainly improvement to be made.But they haven't been at their best and they ran New Zealand close."
Ex-England spinner Graeme Swann on TMS: "Rashid's last over was very poor.Buttler told him what to bowl and he bowled a medium pacer in the slot.That was appalling advice.From then on, Santner had his eye in and New Zealand had their tails up."...