A defiant Matt Prior helped England to an imposing first innings total of 465 on day two of the second Test against New Zealand on Friday after a flurry of wickets threatened to derail the tourists.
Prior smashed 82 off 99 balls at Wellington’s Basin Reserve to build on the first-day foundation laid by centurions Jonathan Trott and Nick Compton.
England had looked in danger of squandering their advantage after starting the day at 267 for two and being reduced to 374 for seven after lunch when spinner Bruce Martin finally found some turn on a previously docile pitch.
But Prior racked up an 83-run partnership with Steve Finn to ensure they regained the ascendancy, with Finn (24) cementing his reputation as a dogged lower-order performer after scoring 56 in the drawn first Test in Dunedin.
Kevin Pietersen (73) made his best score of the series after failing twice in Dunedin.
New Zealand’s bowlers, who toiled for little reward on an unresponsive first-day wicket, made the perfect start when Trott departed without adding to his overnight score of 121.
Trott carelessly prodded at the first ball he faced, edging Trent Boult’s delivery to keeper BJ Watling.
Martin, bowling into the wind, then claimed the wickets of Ian Bell (11) and Joe Root (10), on a pitch that offered New Zealand more attacking opportunities in blustery, overcast conditions.
Bell charged down the wicket to Martin and smashed the ball skywards to Peter Fulton at cover, while Root was deceived by a fuller ball which nicked the bat and was sharply taken by Watling behind the stumps.
Pietersen brought up his half century, the 30th of his Test career, off 112 balls with a four off Martin but departed on 73 shortly after lunch in a carbon copy of Bell’s dismissal to become Martin’s fourth scalp.
Stuart Broad narrowly avoided playing the second ball he faced onto his stumps but lasted only three more balls before Boult coaxed an edge, with Watling taking the catch.
When Finn was out trying to drive Wagner, Prior found himself running out of partners and he departed attempting a reverse sweep to keep the runs ticking over, with Monty Panesar out for a duck to end the innings
Brief Scores: England 465 (Jonathan Trott 121, Nick Compton 100, Kevin Pietersen 73; Bruce Martin 4 for 130) vs New Zealand