New Zealand must contend with rain as much as England for the remaining three days of their opening cricket test at Eden Park.

Apart from captain Kane Williamson overtaking Ross Taylor and Martin Crowe to reach the country's record 18th test century at 2.40pm, persistent showers saw the second day finish in frustration for the hosts.

New Zealand are 229 for four in reply to England's 58, but a moist outfield meant no play was possible. Loyal patrons had every right to feel aggrieved due to the lack of communication delivered through International Cricket Council channels.

Vague references to the next pitch inspection give false hope of a restart when, in reality, they appear all but perfunctory.

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A source told the Herald that because of the reluctance to change the ball anywhere outside 80 overs' use in a test, a fielding team can cry foul if the game goes ahead on a surface that is "damp to the touch".

Eden Park is arguably the best draining ground in New Zealand, but a lack of sun and wind meant the blow-drying and rope-drag techniques to remove moisture were token.

Coach Mike Hesson, captain Williamson and lieutenant Tom Latham had a discussion late afternoon in the middle.

The forecast looks wet today but their best option might be offering an early declaration to place England's batting back under pressure; or speeding up the run rate to create the same effect.

"It's a bit harder to dry later in the evening," Williamson said.

"There are heaps of things you can't control. We'll just need to adjust to the weather, if and when it comes."

New Zealand has been in command, and must seize any prospect of a win to get a crack at a series victory in Christchurch.

The day was finally called off at 9.03pm. New Zealand scored 54 runs and England took the wicket of Williamson lbw to Jimmy Anderson for 102 off 220 balls. Just 23.1 overs were bowled.

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Few sports do rain delays worse than cricket. Only those with a fascination for watching grass grow – or dry – could have enjoyed the night session.

The umpires had a last quick look just before 9pm with the idea of playing potentially to 10pm, but the operation could have been canned 45 minutes earlier.

Williamson's record-setting 18th test century was the day's highlight, but he deflected the attention with customary modesty.

"[The hundred] wasn't the focus of the day. It would've been nice to still be out there after what the bowlers did in the first innings."

He said he had given little thought to overtaking a record Crowe held for 30 years, three months and 11 days.

"Martin was a fantastic, world-class player, our best batsman of all time and the respect is there for what he did for the game.

"I don't focus too much on stats. It's been more about trying to do my bit for the team. That's why it's frustrating not to still be out there… but it was a fairly good delivery.

"Guys have put in tough yards to lay platforms and build partnerships."

Anderson said Williamson was one of the best batsmen in the world.

"He's up there. He's got a brilliant game plan, he's good technically, he plays the ball late and he's good in all conditions and forms of the game."

Henry Nicholls will start on 49 and B-J Watling 17 when, or if, play resumes.