MOUNT MAUNGANUI    -     Half-centuries from Joe Denly and Ben Stokes took England to 241/4 at stumps on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand at Bay Oval on Thursday.

With Stokes (67) and Ollie Pope (18) going into stumps with unbeaten efforts, new head coach Chris Silverwood will be delighted with the first day of his red-ball tenure. England’s new approach of trying to bat long paid off, as New Zealand struggled to break them down. Earlier in the day, Joe Root called correctly at toss, as England elected to bat first. Debutant Dominic Sibley walked into the middle with Rory Burns, and he hit Trent Boult through mid-wicket with the first ball he faced.

The 24-year-old impressed in his 90-minute stay at the crease, as she sent the ball past the boundary four times. He ultimately conceded an edge to Colin de Grandhomme as Ross Taylor gobbled it up at first slip, and New Zealand claimed their first wicket of the day. Denly, who came into the middle after Sibley was dismissed for a promising and patient 22, seemed to have carried his end-of-Ashes form into the series. He had scored two half-centuries – including a 94 – in the last two Tests against Australia, and he followed that up with a crucial 74 against the Black Caps.

The right-hander stitched a 61-run stand with Burns, taking England past the 100-run mark in the 40th over. Burns was fortunate early in his innings: he had nicked the ball to the BJ Watling behind the wicket, but Kane Williamson chose not to review it. The opener made most of the chance, notching up his fifth half-century in Tests.

He was ultimately dismissed by de Grandhomme in the 45th over, as the England skipper walked out into the middle. Root played out 20 deliveries before getting off the mark, but fell to the relentless Neil Wagner on the very next delivery. The right-hander was tempted by a ball outside off stump, and tried to slash hard at it, only to edge it to Tim Southee at second slip.

At 120/3, New Zealand had their foot in the door, and England were in a perilous position. However, Stokes – their Player of the Year so far – walked out in the 53rd over and rescued England once again. He added 83 runs with Denly for the fourth wicket, as the visitors crossed 200 with minimum fuss.

The Black Caps bowlers gave nothing away, but Stokes and Denly dealt with everything to steer England to a promising position. Denly was the last wicket to fall on the day, as Southee utilised the second new ball to deny the batsman his maiden Test hundred. Stokes and Pope saw England through for eight more overs, before the umpire clipped the bails after 90 overs.