England's top order failed to build on promising starts and set the tone for a day of attrition as they attempted to stop New Zealand claim control of the opening Test.
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Having watched New Zealand add 188 in 49 overs on the previous day to reach a commanding first innings total of 470, the tourists slipped into a defensive mode from the start after resuming on a perilous 87 for two.
And England struggled to break out of that defensive strategy all day with even Kevin Pietersen, normally one of the most aggressive batsmen in world cricket, playing within himself as England crawled to 286 for six by the close of the third day, still trailing by 184 runs.
They added only 199 runs off 93 overs during the day with New Zealand able to restrict them to such an extent by bowling 34 maidens with Pietersen one of the biggest culprits by scoring only three boundaries in his 42 in over three hours at the crease.
Captain Michael Vaughan had made a point of calling for a bigger century output from the top order before the start of the series, but when England needed them to deliver on a slow but still flat wicket they all failed to build major innings despite getting starts.
England had begun the day in defensive mode knowing an early clatter of wickets would allow New Zealand to take control and Vaughan forged an important 44-run stand with Andrew Strauss.
Both batsmen fell either side of lunch, however, which appeared to send a nervousness throughout England's ranks and resulted in a defensive display as New Zealand attempted to deny them scoring options.
Vaughan managed to record England's first half-century of the series but fell only half an hour before lunch when he lunged forward at off-spinner Jeetan Patel and edged behind for 63.
Having battled for over two hours to reach lunch, Strauss followed only three balls after the resumption when he attempted to drive New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori off the front foot only for the ball to turn into his stumps.
That wicket united Pietersen and Ian Bell, now recovered from the bruised right hand he suffered in the field on the opening day, in a desperately defensive partnership.
Pietersen had begun his innings in traditional style, striding down the wicket to launch Patel back down the pitch for six off the third ball he faced.
But he withdrew into himself to a staggering degree, taking a further 91 balls to record his next boundary, a clip through mid-wicket off seamer Chris Martin for four to claim his only four of the afternoon session.
Bell perished before him for a painstaking 25 off 88 balls when he was beaten with a full-length delivery from seamer Kyle Mills which seamed back into him and clipped his off-stump as he attempted to drive.
New Zealand claimed the prime wicket of Pietersen 12 overs after tea when his bizarre innings, which included 22 singles and three twos, came to an end off a leading edge which allowed Vettori to claim a diving catch.
But all-rounder Paul Collingwood, who took 33 minutes just to get off the mark, finished unbeaten on 41 while Tim Ambrose reached an unbeaten 23 in his maiden Test innings.