Captain Ross Taylor struck his sixth Test century as New Zealand moved in fits and starts to 331 for five after being sent in to bat on the opening day of the one-off rubber against Zimbabwe.
Taylor was 111 not out at stumps, helping New Zealand build solidly on the 124-run opening partnership between Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill.
McCullum made 83, Guptill 51 and former captain Daniel Vettori a valuable 38 as New Zealand prospered despite losing what was thought to be an important toss.
“It wasn't a bad day, especially being sent in on what was being talked about as a pretty good pitch to bowl on,” McCullum said. “To have got through the day and to have a player on 111 not out at stumps made a good day for us. The pitch showed a bit and our attack may be a bit more potent than their's was in days to come.”
More grass than usual was left on the pitch at McLean Park and it was expected to assist the quicker bowlers, prompting New Zealand to name a four-pronged pace attack.
Zimbabwe was more conservative and named an attack based around the 22-year-old quick Kyle Jarvis, his opening partner Brian Vitori and the brothers Shingirai and Hamilton Masakadza.
Leg-spinner Graeme Cremer was named in place of veteran left-arm spinner Ray Price, who has a groin injury.
Jarvis was the best of the Zimbabwe bowlers, bowling an exacting line throughout the day and finishing with McCullum's wicket at a cost of 56 runs from 22 overs.
He twice beat the outside edge of McCullum's bat in the first over of the day and referred his appeal for lbw against McCullum to the television umpire in the fifth over when he was 16 not out.
McCullum survived and went on to reach his half century in 128 minutes from 86 balls, seeing New Zealand to lunch without the loss of a wicket, a rarity for any side sent in to bat.
Guptill went on to his seventh half century in Tests in 144 minutes off 99 balls but was out shortly after when he edged a rearing delivery from Shingirai Matakadza to wicket-keeper Tatenda Taibu.
The century opening partnership was the first three-figure opening partnership in a New Zealand first innings for eight years and 55 matches, since Stephen Fleming and Mark Richardson achieved the mark against England at Nottingham in 2004.
After Guptill's departure, New Zealand quickly lost Kane Williamson (7) to a run-out to slip to 131 for two. McCullum re-established the innings in a 64-run partnership with Taylor but, when he was out early in the final session, the hosts also soon lost Dean Brownlie caught behind for a duck with the score reading 196 for four.
Vettori then restored the upper hand to the New Zealand batsmen with his bright innings of 38. He rushed to 21 from only 13 balls with four fours and took away the brief advantage the Zimbabwe bowlers had enjoyed. He was out stumped off Cremer but Taylor saw New Zealand to stumps without further loss, adding 53 in an unbroken partnership with B J Watling who was 15 not out at stumps. — AP
New Zealand — 1st innings: B. McCullum lbw b Jarvis 83, M. Guptill c Taibu b S. Masakadza 51, K. Williamson (run out) 4, R. Taylor (batting) 111, D. Brownlie c Taibu b H. Masakadza 0, D. Vettori st. Taibu b Cremer 38, B.J. Watling (batting) 15, Extras (lb-21, w-2, nb-6) 29; Total (for five wkts. in 90 overs) 331.
Fall of wickets: 1-124, 2-131, 3-195, 4-196, 5-278.
Zimbabwe bowling: Jarvis 22-6-56-1, Vitori 19-2-75-0, S. Masakadza 17-2-68-1, H. Masakadza 16-4-33-1, Cremer 16-2-78-1.