Outplaying England in every department, especially in the way their faster bowlers used a suspect pitch, New Zealand achieved their largest-ever victory in twelve hours' playing time.
On the first day, abysmal England bowling, later condemned by Willis as some of the worst he had seen in Tests, enabled New Zealand to score 307 at 4.2 per over after winning the toss. Hadlee, coming in with the innings in the balance, struck 99 in 111 minutes (81 balls), taking heavy toll of a surfeit of long-hops from Botham and half-volleys from a tiring Pigott, in his first Test. The 25-year-old Pigott, who 24 hours earlier had been playing a Shell Trophy game for Wellington, took the place of Dilley, who failed a fitness test.
Willis bowled a hostile and unlucky opening spell, and later adapted to conditions by cutting down his run to concentrate on length and line. Cowans took three important wickets, but the inadequacy of England's bowling on the first day was reflected by the concession of 42 4s, although the ball both swung and moved off the seam. Fowler, deceived by Boock, the slow left-armer, was bowled in the last over of the opening day, whereupon England dived headlong to defeat.
On the second day rain delayed play until after tea. With the pitch sweating under its covers, and the sky overcast, the final hour and a half was always going to be an awkward time for England. In the event they lost six more wickets to close at 53 for seven. Hadlee and Chatfield exploited conditions with relentless accuracy, leaving the pitch's cracks to do their work for them. England's misgivings did the rest. Psychologically the decisive moment was probably when Gower padded up to a ball from Hadlee that was at no stage off the target. That rare lapse of judgment sowed the seeds of doubt in the other batsmen's minds.
England's hopes of saving the embarrassment of having to follow on for first time against New Zealand vanished on the third morning when Pigott was beaten by Cairns's slower ball, and 40 minutes before lunch their second innings started. They were 225 runs behind. Tavaré and Fowler hung on till the interval, but 65 minutes afterwards the score was 33 for six and the only question was whether England could surpass their previous lowest score against New Zealand, 64 at Wellington in 1977-78. Randall and Taylor achieved that by adding 39; but Taylor's run-out, when Randall rejected a sharp single to Edgar in the covers, ended the resistance. Hadlee, adding match figures of eight for 44 to his 99, was the dominant figure in the match.