New Zealand's chances of completing their first series win over Australia in 30 years suffered a major setback on the opening day of the first test.
The Black Caps were sent in and dismissed for 183 in 48 overs by tea. The Australian bowling, particularly from Josh Hazlewood, was clinical, but the hosts looked to be nursing a hangover from their triumphant Chappell-Hadlee one-day international series. 'Caught' appeared 10 times in their scorebook.
Australia slumped to 5-2 in response, igniting hopes of retribution for local fans, but they were snuffed by a 126-run third-wicket stand between Usman Khawaja and Steve Smith. The visitors reached 147-3 at stumps.
Both batsmen offered chances that weren't taken. Smith edged to second slip Mark Craig off Doug Bracewell on 18; Khawaja misjudged the angle when he danced down the wicket to a Craig off-spinner, but so did wicketkeeper B-J Watling.
Craig eventually removed Smith for 71 with a sharp caught and bowled; Khawaja remained not out 57. Adam Voges was the other not out batsman on seven, after getting bowled by a Bracewell no-ball in the last over of the day. Umpire Richard Illingworth made the call, but it appeared a legitimate delivery.
New Zealand can take solace in that they have been inserted in both their previous tests in Wellington and were dismissed for 221 (against Sri Lanka) and 192 (against India). They responded with declarations of 524-5 and 680-8 to win and draw those respective matches.
However, a loss in Wellington would only leave them the chance of levelling the series in Christchurch.
A decent thatch of grass had been left on the pitch by groundsman Hagen Faith, in his maiden test, to assist with seam movement. That compounded the New Zealand batsmen's difficulty in deciding when to leave the ball outside off stump against sublime bowling.
New Zealand were 84 for five at lunch and struggled to muster subsequent momentum.
Hazlewood produced a sublime opening spell of eight overs from the RA Vance End, taking three for 25; he finished with figures of four for 42 from 14 overs. Peter Siddle backed him with figures of 12-5-37-3. Nathan Lyon's three for 32 helped mop up the tail.
The tepid individual highlights for the New Zealanders included Craig's 41 not out, Corey Anderson's 38 off 87 balls, and No.11 Trent Boult's three sixes as part of 24.
Anderson's fledgling partnerships of 37 for the sixth wicket with B-J Watling (17) and 40 for the eighth wicket with Craig were truncated. Craig and Boult flayed 46 runs for the 10th wicket, the highest stand of the innings. Boult was eventually caught at long-on by Khawaja as he danced with the boundary rope to complete a self-alley-oop.
Anderson took 17 balls to get off the mark but a test match tends to favour tortoises more than hares. At least he eked out a survival plan.
In the 12th over New Zealand's collapse reached its nadir, flailing at 51 for five. They had lost four wickets in the space of 29 balls.
When captain Brendon McCullum was caught for a seven-ball duck, the only sound clearly heard was traffic circling the largest roundabout in the southern hemisphere. He deflected an edge onto his pads. The standing ovation which brought him to the crease, in his world record 100th consecutive test from debut, was replaced by eerie silence.
New Zealand had few answers as the Australian attack either pitched the ball on a good length or used the appreciable bounce of the Patumahoe clay to test backward defences. The slip cordon reaped the benefits. The first seven dismissals came from edges behind the wicket, including four catches to wicketkeeper Peter Nevill.
The New Zealanders prodded, jabbed or got stuck on the crease. If there was slim consolation, each of the first six exits came from a quality delivery.
Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill showed glimpses of form with a flurry of strokes, but that entertainment proved short-lived; they fell for 16 and 18 respectively within the space of seven balls.