England and New Zealand's recent history of attritional struggles ending in near-deadlock continued in the first of two tests Friday in which the initiative passed from one team to the other before the second day ended with a slight advantage to the tourists.
New Zealand reached stumps at 144-4 in reply to England's first innings of 353, on the back foot after the dismissal of captain Kane Williamson for 51 in the final session. Henry Nicholls was 26 not out and B.J. Watling on 6.
Nicholls was struck on the helmet by England's star fast bowler Jofra Archer just before stumps and took time to compose himself before continuing his innings. Archer hadn't been particularly effective for most of the New Zealand innings and ended the day with 0-40 from 14 overs but found some spiteful bounce just before the end.
The first day may have been England's as it reached 241-4 after winning the toss, helped by half centuries from Rory Burns (52), Joe Denly (74) and a developing innings from Ben Stokes, who was 67 not out at stumps.
Stokes went on to 91 Friday, mostly in partnership with Ollie Pope (29), but was the first victim of swing bowler Tim Southee who took three wickets in the space of 11 balls to bowl New Zealand back into the match during the morning session.
Southee also dismissed Pope and Sam Curran, first ball, and took a catch at second slip to remove Archer, reducing England from 277-4 to 295-8 and putting New Zealand briefly in the driver's seat.
But a 52-run partnership for the ninth wicket between Jos Buttler and tall, bespectacled spinner Jack Leach won back lost ground for England and allowed the tourists to reach 353, a competitive total on a slow batting pitch.
New Zealand's first innings progressed in fits and starts as it lost Tom Latham for 9, Jeet Raval for 19 and Ross Taylor for 25 before Williamson fell close to stumps, tipping the balance back in England's favor.
The pitch at Bay Oval, hosting a test match for the first time, favored neither bowlers nor batsmen to any great degree, explaining the fluctuating nature of the second day.
There was swing available at the start of the day when New Zealand began with a ball only 11 overs old and later when Stuart Broad and Curran, for England, floated the ball about with occasional success.
Williamson's loss dealt a major blow to New Zealand's hopes. He looked comfortable in reaching his 31st test half century before receiving a ball from Sam Curran which spat off a length and carried off a glove to second slip.
Several New Zealand batsman could be accused of throwing away their wickets. Opener Raval found himself tied down by England's left-arm spinner Leach, hit out and was caught for 19. Taylor made a solid start in partnership with Williamson but, on 25, misjudged a ball from Stokes and offered a simple chance to Pope.
Williamson looked solid and likely to anchor New Zealand's inning until Curran caused a ball to rise off a length and take his glove in the final twist of the second day.
"I guess it would have been nice to be three down tonight," Southee said. "But we've still got some batting to come and hopefully a couple of good partnerships and we can eke out some more runs. I think we bowled well yesterday and picked up the rewards today. "
Relive 1 NEWS NOW's live update of day two
New Zealand are 201 runs behind in the first Test against England after captain Kane Williamson fell to a sensational delivery from Sam Curran.
Williamson showed no signs of rust in progressing serenely to 51 before a delivery from Curran bounced sharply, hitting Williamson on the gloves and ballooning to Ben Stokes in the slips.
Ross Taylor fell before Williamson, pulling a Ben Stokes delivery lamely to Ollie Pope in the deep.
The variable bounce that dismissed Williamson will also be a worrying sign for the Black Caps as we head into day three with the Black Caps trailing England by 209 runs.
Henry Nicholls and BJ Watling will resume tomorrow on 26 and 6 respectively.
NZ 94/2 (Williamson 42, Taylor 16) chasing ENG 353 after 30 overs
The old firm of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have combined once again after a bizarre innings from Jeet Raval came to an end against England spinner Jack Leach.
Raval was caught for 19 at midwicket trying to slog-sweep after a number of half chances in the lead-up trying to either repeat the shot or loft the left-arm spinner over mid-on.
His dismissal united Taylor and Williamson, who have batted serenely with the captain unbeaten on 42 and Taylor 16 not out.
NZ 50/1 (Raval 10, Williamson 23) chasing ENG 353 after 17 overs
New Zealand have reached 50 for one at tea on day two of the first Test but it could have been even better if Tom Latham - the batsman dismissed - had reviewed his LBW decision.
Latham was trapped in front by Sam Curran for 8, with replays clearly showing the left-hander’s bat smashing into his front pad.
Hot spot also showed a smaller spot on the bat, potentially from an inside edge that would have saved him, though it wasn’t conclusive.
Latham’s dismissal bought Kane Williamson to the middle for just his fifth innings since the Cricket World Cup final.
He showed no signs of rushing, hitting four boundaries to be unbeaten on 23 while Jeet Raval is 10 not out.
ENG 353 all out (Leach 18*) after 124 overs
New Zealand have bowled out England for 353 on day two of the first Test with Tim Southee taking four wickets.
Neil Wagner finished with three wickets after dismissing Stuart Broad to end the innings.
The left-armer had earlier broken the stubborn 52-run partnership of Jos Buttler and Jack Leach when he had Buttler caught on the point boundary.
Southee had been robbed of completing a five-wicket haul an over earlier when Jeet Raval put down an easy chance coming in from the boundary. The opener appeared to move late in the belief that Henry Nicholls was going to take it from the infield. Southee’s frustration was understandably obvious.
ENG 329/8 (Buttler 29, Leach 12) after 116 overs
Lunch: Jos Buttler and Jack Leach combined to push England past 300 after the tourists lost three wickets in the first hour of day two.
Jofra Archer survived the first delivery after drinks in a morning session – a hat-trick ball for Tim Southee – but was later caught by Southee at second slip off the bowling of Trent Boult.
That bought Leach out to combine with Buttler, the pair putting on a 34-run partnership in 12.3 overs.
The powerful Buttler, who is unbeaten on 29, looks dangerous having lofted a couple of boundaries off the NZ quicks.
Leach, who scored 92 against Australia in the Ashes earlier this year, is 12 not out.
ENG 286/7 (Buttler 9, Archer 0)
12pm drinks break in the morning session
The Black Caps enjoyed a dream start to day two as Ross Taylor made amends for his drops on day one with a spectacular one-handed catch to remove Ben Stokes for 91.
Taylor, who put down Stokes late on day one, moved sharply to his right to take the catch above his head after a charging Stokes had edged a Tim Southee delivery.
Southee followed that up by removing Ollie Pope caught behind before completing the dream hour with the perfect in-swinger to remove left-handed Sam Curran first ball and to set up a hat-trick ball.
ENG 241/4 (Stokes 67, Pope 18)
Day two preview: England start day two having edged the first day marginally after Ben Stokes cut loose against the second new ball yesterday evening.
The Black Caps will rue putting down Stokes late in the day, with their World Cup nemesis the only real English batsman to show some fluency on what appeared to be a slow wicket.
Taylor dropped Stokes at first slip, the normally reliable slipper reacting late and only managing to parry the head-high chance for four.
Stokes resumes on 67 with Ollie Pope on 18.