Steady batting from Jonathan Trott was holding the innings together as England struggled against some keen and well-directed New Zealand seam bowling when the first Test got under way on the second morning in Dunedin.
Three wickets for the left-arm paceman Neil Wagner, including those of Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen to successive deliveries in his opening over, and one apiece to Tim Southee and another left-armer, Trent Boult, left England, who had been put in to bat before play was abandoned on the first day, floundering at 81 for five at lunch. Trott, who passed 3,000 Test runs during his innings, had hit six fours in his unbeaten 40, with Matt Prior on one.
After the foul weather that washed out the first day, University Oval was transformed. Gradually, the early cloud cleared and the sun shone, lending a little warmth to the crowd shoehorned into the ground. There was early speculation as to how the pitch would play having spent time under covers, with the possibility of seam movement rather than swing for the new-ball bowlers, particularly with the start brought forward by half an hour.
Cook and Nick Compton had formed a stubborn opening partnership during the series in India and, having been put in to bat, that is what the situation demanded now.
It was not the start England wanted, however. The manner in which Compton coped with tricky seaming early-season pitches last summer was what brought him to the notice of the England selectors and these conditions would have been rather more familiar than those he encountered in India. But he played his fourth ball, in Southee's second over, perhaps too cautiously, carefully angling his defensive shot into the ground, only to see it bounce back on to the stumps.
Meanwhile Cook had started in good order, clipping his opening runs off his legs – his bread and butter shot – and then standing tall to force Boult through extra cover for the day's opening boundary.
The ball found the middle of Trott's bat too, although there was a little swing and seam movement that might be expected from a new pitch that has been under covers for a day. Trott drove Boult sumptuously through extra cover, before further trouble hit England, with a lucky escape for Cook, on nine, as he flicked Boult to midwicket where Bruce Martin, the left-arm spin debutant, could not hang on to the catch.
Now, though, came a double blow. Wagner had given the England batsmen problems in Queenstown, hastening his promotion back to the Test squad and he was introduced to the attack after 10 overs. His second ball, short, came off the pitch sluggishly and Cook, who feeds on such length normally, cut it tamely to point. Pietersen, who had been vigorously shadow batting in the dressing room beforehand, then received a full-length delivery first ball, which the left-armer swung into him to leave him stone dead lbw. Ian Bell avoided the hat-trick.
With the new ball gone, and the sun starting to dry the pitch, batting started to look a little easier, as Bell and Trott began the process of regenerating the innings. Trott had looked in good touch, and now his Warwickshire team-mate also started to find the boundary, the pair adding 46 with no problems aside from an lbw appeal against Bell, turned down but reviewed by New Zealand, in which a thick inside edge was shown.
Trott was driving strongly and once Bell swivelled to pull Wagner to the square-leg boundary. Now, though, we saw one of those frustrating Bell moments. The dismissal of Cook had shown how the ball could stick in the pitch and during the game it may be that short extra cover and midwicket could be key catching positions. With Wagner bowling round the wicket, Bell drove loosely, and at extra cover Rutherford took his second catch of the morning at the second attempt. Joe Root managed one boundary before fending a short ball from Boult to third slip.
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