England's bowlers worked hard to restrict New Zealand to 282-6 on the opening day of the series in Hamilton.
New Zealand opted to bat first and looked to be setting the platform for a large total after reaching lunch at 87-1 on a slow pitch that offered no encouragement to bowlers.
The tourists - led by the exemplary Ryan Sidebottom - stuck to their task and gained a foothold in the contest by removing Stephen Fleming (41) and Matthew Sinclair (8) during the afternoon session.
And the Black Caps found themselves in danger of wasting their solid start when Jamie How fell eight short of a century and Jacob Oram followed cheaply to leave them at 191-5 early in the evening session.
However, Brendon McCullum blasted a 55-ball half-century to regain the initiative for his side during an 86-run, sixth-wicket stand with Ross Taylor (54no) that came off just 19 overs.
But Sidebottom had McCullum caught behind during the penultimate over to tilt the momentum of the game just in England's favour.
That scenario had looked unlikely during a wretched opening session in which England wasted the new ball and then had Ian Bell taken to hospital.
Bell, fielding at short-leg, was hit on the right hand while trying to avoid a full-blooded pull by his New Zealand namesake Matthew in the 11th over. He was immediately taken to hospital where initial X-rays showed no broken bones although it is not yet clear if he will be able to bat during the remainder of the match.
It was Steve Harmison (1-64), operating mainly in wayward mode, who made the only breakthrough of the morning in his second over, the 14th of the day. Bell (19), undone by overconfidence having hit the previous two deliveries for four, edged a flat-footed drive to Alastair Cook in the gully.
Once the new ball's shine had begun to wear off, the slow-paced, flat nature of the pitch became increasingly apparent as Fleming dominated a second-wicket stand of 66 with How either side of lunch.
Fleming, who plans to retire at the conclusion of the series, looked in fine touch while racing to 41, including eight boundaries. But his dismissal, brilliantly caught one-handed by a diving Cook in the gully to give Sidebottom just reward for a parsimonious post-lunch spell, opened the door for England.
And when Sinclair chipped the tamest of return catches to Paul Collingwood (1-16), New Zealand were 129-3 and looked to have squandered the advantage of batting first.
However, the hosts' innings was steadied by a fourth-wicket alliance of 47 between How - continuing his steady, unobtrusive progress - and Taylor, who mixed watchful defence with the occasional meaty drive.
The runs dried up after tea as both batsmen fell into an almost exclusively defensive mindset, particularly against the left-arm spin of Monty Panesar.
How was within eight of a maiden century when he was undone by a Panesar delivery that turned and took the outside edge on its way low down to Collingwood at slip.
England's superb catching was another positive to take from the day, Cook completed a personal hat-trick by holding on to a diving chance to dismiss Oram (10) and give Hoggard (1-95) his first wicket.
That brought McCullum to the crease with his side under pressure at 191-5 and more than 20 overs remaining in the day.
What followed was further evidence of his fabulous talent as, for the only time, England lost control in the field.
McCullum carried on from his exploits in the one-day series with a 55-ball cameo that featured two sixes and five fours and swung the momentum back New Zealand's way. Taylor also joined in the fun and reached a half-century of his own - his first in Tests - from 118 balls.
But Sidebottom (2-39), armed with the second new ball, had the final word by tempting McCullum (51) into edging a wide delivery to debutant wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose as New Zealand closed at 282-6.