Openers William Young and Tom Latham complemented Tim Southee’s incisive bowling to help New Zealand dominate India and finish Day 2 in the first Test on 129 without loss, at Green Park in Kanpur, on Friday.
The only bright spot for India on a disappointing day was a debut hundred by Shreyas Iyer.
Playing his 80th Test, Southee (5 for 69) took his 13th five-wicket haul on an unresponsive track to send India packing for 345, after they started the day on 258 for 4.
Young then held centre-stage in his fourth Test appearance. He looked composed and unperturbed during his unbeaten knock of 75 off 180 balls.
Latham was unbeaten on 50 off 165 balls. The seasoned campaigner survived three on-field decisions (two leg before and one caught behind), negated by the Decision Review System, and went on to frustrate the Indian spinners with a gritty, defensive game.
The Green Park track got better for batting on the second day and the turn that was on offer was minimal. The variable bounce wasn't also there for the better part of the 57 overs that the Kiwi openers batted.
Since it was slow turn, the Black Caps duo mostly plonked their front-foot and neutralised the turn. And when they played on the back-foot, there was enough time to manoeuvre on both sides of the wicket.
Both were able to adjust on the back-foot against Ravindra Jadeja (14-4-28-0) and Ravichandran Ashwin (17-5-38-0), both of whom didn't look threatening on the day.
What was worse for India was that hardly any delivery kept dangerously low, which could have brought the leg-before into the equation.
The most disappointing of all was Axar Patel (10-1-26-0), whose accuracy on the leg stump line was of little or no value and it was once again proved that without assistance from the track, he is not even half the bowler that he is with some help from surface.
Young, in particular, got as many as 12 boundaries while Latham helped himself to four hits to the fence.
While the Indian spinners can come back on the third day if the pitch considerably deteriorates, New Zealand would like to take the game deep by getting somewhere close to India's first innings total and take it from there.
Earlier, Iyer scored a hundred on debut before Ashwin survived Southee's incisive morning spell to take India to 339 for 8 at lunch.
Resuming on the overnight score of 75, Iyer (105 off 171 balls) became the 16th Indian to score a hundred on Test debut, and second after the great Gundappa Vishwanath to reach the milestone at Green Park after 52 years.
He is the third successive Mumbai player, after Rohit Sharma and Prithvi Shaw, to slam a hundred on Test debut.
Ashwin (38 batting off 54 balls) did the bulk of scoring in the morning session, in which India scored 81 runs and lost four wickets.
The opening session also belonged to New Zealand’s seasoned pacer Southee (27.4-6-69-5), who bagged his 13th five-wicket haul in his 80th Test. He was on target with the second new ball first up as he sent back Ravindra Jadeja (50) on his overnight score.
Southee, as usual, used the width of the crease cleverly and the angles to trouble Jadeja and got the ball to move from length, which was too much for the lower-order players to negotiate.
Wriddhiman Saha and Axar Patel nicked at those deliveries and were back in the hut.
Sensing that he was batting with the tail as Saha (1 off 12 balls) is no longer a batter on whom one can repose faith, Iyer hit a flurry of boundaries but the best shot was a cover drive off Kyle Jamieson (22.2-6-85-3) which took him to 96.
A glide towards wide of third man off Jamieson got him a double and the moment that every cricketer awaits: a century in India whites, which would definitely increase the pressure on his captain for the game, Ajinkya Rahane.
His innings was studded with 13 fours and two sixes, which showed that he was always looking at ways to score runs rather than merely surviving.
He was finally out for 105 when he tried to drive a slower one from Southee but saw it land straight in the hands of cover fielder, Will Young.
Ashwin, however, was untroubled as he hit five fours, including a regal cover drive off a rare loose ball from Southee.
Openers Will Young and Tom Latham showed good determination as New Zealand went to tea on 72 without loss after veteran pacer Tim Southee's five-wicket haul restricted India to 345.
This was after Shreyas Iyer became the 16th Indian cricketer to score a hundred on Test debut before the home side's lower-middle order, save Ravichandran Ashwin (38 off 56 balls) caved in meekly.
The right-handed Young (batting 46 off 86 balls) and left-handed Latham (batting 23 off 72 balls), who appealed successfully after taking the Decision Review for two on-field lbw decisions, not only defended doggedly for 26 overs but also hit nine boundaries between them to keep the scoreboard ticking.
To be fair to the Indian bowlers, the bounce was better on the day as Southee's four morning victims was proof and there wasn't much turn off the surface for both Ashwin (8-1-25-0) and Ravindra Jadeja (6-2-16-0).
New Zealand's first target will be to reach 146 and avoid the follow-on, which will also give them time to take the game deep, as India would need to bat third and it won't be easy on this track with has variable bounce.
But credit for that must go to Southee (27.4-6-69-5), who tirelessly bowled an extended spell of more than 10 overs from one end, causing extensive damage.