Tight New Zealand bowling and a placid pitch strangled England's first innings as they crawled to 286 for six at stumps on the third day of the first cricket Test here Friday.
Although England had passed the follow-on mark they were still 184 runs short of New Zealand's first innings 470.
With New Zealand's twin spinners Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel in full flight, England could only muster 199 runs for the loss of four wickets on the third day after resuming at 87 for two.
It was a tough grind for runs and the batsmen were never allowed to dominate.
England captain Michael Vaughan who started the day on 44 made slow progress to 63 before he prodded at a delivery from Patel and succeeded only in getting a thick edge, which was taken by Brendon McCullum behind stumps.
Andrew Strauss struggled through to lunch, but three balls after the resumption he played and missed a flighted ball from Vettori and was bowled for 43.
When the new ball was taken, Kyle Mills struck for New Zealand with a delivery that nipped back from a good length and bowled Ian Bell, putting the batsman out of his misery after he had accumulated just 25 from 88 balls.
Kevin Pietersen, one of cricket's most explosive batsmen, opened in aggressive fashion with a six off the third ball he faced from Patel.
But if the meagre crowd of 2,500 thought Pietersen was going to inject some life into the game they were soon proved otherwise as he retreated into his shell.
For nearly an hour while he was at the crease the run rate was down to just one an over.
When Pietersen was eventually caught and bowled by Vettori after tea he had produced an innings of 43 from 131 balls.
England were then 245 for six, still 25 short of the follow-on mark, and it was left to Paul Collingwood and debutant Tim Ambrose to steer them through to safety and stumps.
Vettori, who had a standout day as captain with his subtle use of pace and spin coupled with precision field placements, was also the thriftiest of the New Zealand bowlers.
He returned the figures of two for 60 from 38 overs while his spin partner Patel has one for 90 off 35, and the miserly Jacob Oram conceded just 18 runs from 16 overs.
Chris Martin, who made the initial breakthrough with the wickets of Alastair Cook and nightwatchman Mathew Hoggard the previous day, has two for 53 and the other successful wickettaker Kyle Mills has one for 61.