Before the series began, England captain Joe Root spoke at length about England needing to bat for longer periods of time.
New Zealand showed him how this was done on an admittedly docile surface in Mount Maunganui where 2 wickets fell all day and one was to part-time spinner Root himself.
England will be ruing their own dismissals where they did enough to get themselves out rather than succumbing to New Zealand’s own efforts.
New Zealand resumed on 144/4 and England would have had hopes of a significant first innings lead. Henry Nicholls was cleared to bat on after suffering a sickening blow to the head by Jofra Archer the previous evening. They began cautiously, adding only 26 runs in the first hour. Root had Nicholls trapped lbw just before lunch for 41.
Watling then combined with all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme for a patiently constructed 119 run partnership which gave very few opportunities for England to make inroads.
Similarly, the second new ball came and went with little joy, England’s best hope was containment rather than taking wickets which sharply contrasted their fortunes at home. They will need to work on ways to take wickets on flat surfaces which they may also find on their upcoming South Africa tour.
de Grandhomme was eventually dismissed by Ben Stokes for 65 but Watling brought up his century just after tea in 251 balls including 12 fours.
A typically stoical innings from the New Zealand keeper, who has often come in after the top order have departed prematurely and had success. A masterclass in batting time and England would do themselves a favour by attempting to emulate his efforts.
Watling then combined with Mitchell Santer for a slightly brisker 50 partnership against a tiring England attack and the pair are not out overnight.
With two days remaining in this match, and a pitch which is likely to take spin and begin to lose its consistency, New Zealand will want to take as big a first innings lead as possible since they must bat last.
For England to have any success, they will need to bowl New Zealand out as quickly as possible in the morning and attempt to build a lead of their own.
Chasing anything over 250 on this pitch may prove difficult, though there is little historical precedent considering this is the first-ever test match played here.
Play resumes tonight at 10pm.