Joe Denly and Ben Stokes steer England into good position after tight opening day tussle in first Test against New Zealand

Half centuries from batting pair leave tourists well placed on 241-4 at Mount Maunganui, while opener Burns admits he struggled to find rhythm on way to streaky 52

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MATCH INFO

Day 1 at Mount Maunganui

England 241-4

Denly 74, Stokes 67 not out, De Grandhomme 2-28

New Zealand 

Yet to bat

Half-centuries from Rory Burns, Joe Denly and Ben Stokes steered England into a promising position on the first day of the opening Test against New Zealand on Thursday.

With England intent on occupying the crease as long as possible at Mount Maunganui – bar captain Joe Root's all-too brief innings – and New Zealand bowling tight lines, run-scoring proved a bit of grind in the opening sessions.

Denly, who claimed the honours in a fascinating battle with New Zealand's short-ball maestro Neil Wagner, fell for 74 when the second new ball was taken.

New Zealand-born Stokes, who punished Trent Boult with four boundaries off consecutive balls, including one from a dropped catch by Ross Taylor at first slip, was unbeaten on 67 from 114 balls with Ollie Pope on 18. England finished on 241-4.

Denly put on 83 with Stokes for the fourth wicket as England added 120 in the final session, doubling the score.

The former's wicket was the only one to fall in that last session when he was caught behind off Tim Southee after earlier ducking and weaving his way through a fascinating battle with Wagner.

Throughout the onslaught, the edges fell short of the cordon, and balls that did beat the bat then missed the stumps, but Denly showed his grit and focus as he also smacked five rising balls to the fence.

England's top three played their part in getting a safe start with Surrey pair Burns and Dom Sibley putting on 52 for the first wicket before Burns and Denly added 61 for the second.

Opener Burns was pleased he battled to a half-century but admitted his disappointment at not progressing further.

"I sort of ebbed and flowed," he said. "There were bits where I had some rhythm, there were bits where I was scrapping away and couldn't really find it.

"It was slightly indifferent but I managed to scrap my way to a score and in the end was probably disappointed that it wasn't a bigger score than it was.

"It's been a good day's cricket. The way they bowled and the discipline they showed, our run-rate was probably hovering just over two for most of the day until Stokesy got a few away there at the end.

"They've obviously bowled very well but I feel we've set up the game in a way where we're really looking at establishing ourselves in this first innings and trying to get some good runs on the board."

Debutant Sibley, the only wicket to fall in the morning session, started his Test career with a four off the first ball he faced on his way to 22, while Burns was out for 52 before tea.

His dismissal brought Root to the crease for what turned out to be a short-lived stay.

Having recited the England mantra of "bat long" when he won the toss, Root took 21 balls to get off the mark with a two and then wafted at a wide delivery from Neil Wagner and was caught behind. In his last eight Test innings Root now has three ducks and a two.

Burns might also have been removed cheaply but a caught behind appeal when he was on 10, and the total 14, was turned down.

New Zealand, to their cost, did not review the decision and replays showed there was a faint edge.

Burns offered further chances on 37 and 44 but luck stayed with him until he reached his well-grafted 52, when he gave up his wicket pushing at a wide Colin de Grandhomme delivery and edged it to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.

"I didn't feel like I hit it," Burns said. "I was quite surprised when Ross Taylor ran past at the end of the next over saying to one of the boys that apparently there was a Hot Spot. I thought I missed it by a country mile but apparently I didn't."

De Grandhomme, with gentle medium pacers drifting away from the batsmen, finished with 2-28 while Southee and Wagner had a wicket each.

"I thought we bowled really well, we asked really good questions for long periods of time and at the same time they batted really well," Wagner said.

"Anything we threw at them, they played quite well. At times, they had a bit of luck but sometimes you need a bit of luck, it happens in cricket."

MATCH INFO

Day 1 at Mount Maunganui

England 241-4

Denly 74, Stokes 67 not out, De Grandhomme 2-28

New Zealand 

Yet to bat

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