Early in the final session today New Zealand looked to have a whip hand on the second test against England; by stumps it was a different game.

And for that, credit England batsman Jonny Bairstow, who oversaw a bold salvage job which lifted England from a wobbly 164 for seven to sit at 290 for eight when the second day starts at Hagley Oval tomorrow.

He's also got himself to 97, just shy of a fifth test hundred, and first against New Zealand.

Once again England's batsmen let them down, if not to the depths of 58 all out from the first test at Eden Park a week ago.

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Still, having won the toss New Zealand's seamers were on the job and Tim Southee and Trent Boult shared all eight wickets in the day.

Southee claimed his seventh five-wicket haul in tests. Photo / Getty
Southee claimed his seventh five-wicket haul in tests. Photo / Getty

Had it not been for Bairstow and recalled fast bowler Mark Wood, who put on 95 in 18 overs for the eighth wicket, England would have been in a pickle.

"He's had a great summer," Southee said of Yorkshireman Bairstow.

"He's a dangerous player who can hit the ball to most places around the ground, a solid all round batsman who batted exceptionally well with the tail."

England's batting earlier was disjointed and largely ordinary.

Senior batsman Alastair Cook fell to a lovely ball from Trent Boult for the third time in three innings in the series – and cue weird statistic of the day: England have lost their first wicket with the total at six in all three innings too, and it's been Cook out each time.

Southee went through captain Joe Root's defences at a point where Root seemed to be getting well set to press on.

Root's dismissal sparked a dramatic collapse – at least it would have been had England's effort at Eden Park, all out in 20.4 overs, not been a tough yardstick – losing three for one.

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Ben Stokes and Bairstow pulled things around with a stand of 57.

There was movement for the seamers and when recalled fast bowler Wood marched out, New Zealanad were firmly in charge.

But Wood had the right answers, adopted an assertive attitude, and benefitted from a couple of slices of luck from catching slipups, albeit nothing easy went down.

Wood clattered three fours in one Ish Sodhi over, it not being a happy return for the legspinner playing his first test since late 2016. But he is primarily in the side for the second innings.

Bairstow drove and pulled strongly and was well worth his 97. Wood completed his maiden test 50 before Southee nabbed his fifth wicket of the innings.

Southee claimed his seventh five-wicket haul in tests. Photo / Getty
Southee claimed his seventh five-wicket haul in tests. Photo / Getty

Wood has a nifty line in self-deprecating north-eastern humour too. He reckons he should score more runs than he does.

"I get to 20 and I think I'm like Bradman, that's the problem, I try too many shots," he quipped.

Wood paid tribute to Bairstow, whom he's played with and against since they were 11.

"He kept it fun, kept it calm whereas sometimes I think I get a bit ahead of myself and try too much."

Neither Neil Wagner nor Colin de Grandhomme were in the wicket business yesterday. Indeed medium pacer de Grandhomme is wicketless in the series, none for 84 off 41 overs. Tidy yes, but limited penetration.

New Zealand's inability to finish the tail off told Southee something: "They showed if you can get in it can be reasonably easy for batting."

England must win the test to square the series. They have not won a test away from home in their last 12.