England 290 for 8 (Bairstow 97*, Leach 10*) v New Zealand
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details

There's a school of thought that England's best route out of their current Test-match malaise would be to pretend that every innings is a 50-over affair, and thereby guarantee themselves a score of 350 every time they go out to bat.

Jonny Bairstow and Mark Wood did little to dissuade anyone of this logic on the first afternoon at Hagley Oval in Christchurch, as their harum-scarum eighth-wicket stand of 95 in 18 overs helped transform another flat-lining performance and give themselves a chance of competing on an even footing in a match they must win to claim a share of the two-match series.

By the close, a measure of order had been restored, thanks to another virtuoso performance from Tim Southee, whose full delivery to rattle Wood's stumps on the stroke of the 80th over ended a maiden half-century from England's No. 9 and secured the bowler a richly deserved five-wicket haul, his seventh in Test cricket.

However, England endured to the close, with Bairstow closing on 97 not out from 154 balls, having played out a tense final-over maiden from Neil Wagner, with the debutant Jack Leach alongside him on 10.

Their close-of-play total of 290 for 8 was a massive improvement on their prognosis at 164 for 7 in the opening overs of the evening session. It had been a familiar diet of failings from a Test team that has been in arrested development for far too many months now - inconsequential efforts from Alastair Cook and James Vince; promising but unfulfilled performances from Mark Stoneman and Joe Root; and yet another troubling middle-order collapse. But eventually the revival was set in motion by the belligerent blade of Bairstow, whose last innings at this ground had been an eye-popping 104 from 60 balls in the ODI series decider at the start of the month.

On this occasion, Bairstow had ground his way to 39 from 80 balls when he was cattle-prodded into overdrive by the limp departure of two more of his colleagues in quick succession. Ben Stokes was strangled down the leg side by Trent Boult in the first over after tea - bringing to an end a determined stand of 57 - before Stuart Broad, suffering from vertigo at No. 8 after the decision to drop both Moeen Ali and Chris Woakes, flopped a tame drive off Southee into the hands of Ish Sodhi at mid-off.

Bairstow's counterattack was not entirely flawless. After slogging three fours in quick succession to bring up his fifty, he was dropped by BJ Watling as he cleared his front leg for a mow across the line, then survived an improbably savage bouncer from the medium-pace of Colin de Grandhomme that knocked his helmet clean off and sent it rolling past the stumps. But the moment that proved his luck was in came on 62, when Neil Wagner somehow managed to flick his off stump at pace, without dislodging a bail.

But Bairstow made his own luck with the quality of his strokeplay in between whiles. He and Wood traded lusty blows through their buccaneering stand, as if closing their eyes and visualising a white ball instead of red. That was easy enough for Wood, for whom this was a first Test outing since July last year, and his combating driving through the covers and lusty pick-ups over midwicket might as well have been air-dropped from the 45th over of a floundering run-chase.

The efforts of Bairstow and Wood could not entirely atone, however, from another troublingly feeble display from England's flat-lining top order. After being routed for 58 on the first morning of last week's Auckland Test, the omens weren't promising as Kane Williamson won another toss and chose to bowl again, and when Cook was extracted for his third single-figure score of the series - England's scoreline has been 6 for 1 on each of those occasions - pessimism was rampant.

Sadly, the arrival of Vince did little to restore any faith. Vince's recall at No. 3 had been a consequence of Moeen's absence at No. 8 rather than on any real merit, and he was duly pinned lbw for 18, a self-parody of an innings that featured three boundaries - two of them particularly sumptuous - followed by a leg-sided lbw decision that prompted the decaying sense of another opportunity squandered.

England did at least stop the rot in the short term with a third-wicket stand of 55 between Root and Stoneman, but then - not entirely out of the blue, but certainly without the air-raid-siren warning of their Auckland meltdown - they contrived to ship their next three wickets for a solitary run in the space of nine deliveries to plunge themselves back into crisis at 94 for 5.

Root, as so often, was the cause of both their serenity while he was at the crease, and their panic when he was gone. He overcame a rocky start, which included a fourth-ball bouncer from Southee that clanged into the badge of his helmet, to ease along to 37 with five pleasingly crisp boundaries, the pick of which was a pearling on-drive off Southee that looked set to click him into a higher gear.

Instead, it was the direct cause of his downfall. One delivery later, Root lined up a similar shot, but was utterly suckered by Southee's 'three-quarter' ball, one that gripped from just back of a length, seamed through a wide and gaping gate, and flattened his off stump via a deflection off the back pad.

Root, not for the first time this winter, looked crestfallen as he left, knowing that he had fallen short of both his own and his team's expectations. And the consequences would prove dramatic. Five balls and one run later, Boult was back into the action, as Dawid Malan faced up to his first delivery of the match, failed to get his feet moving, and was pinned plumb in front of middle by a full-length seamer that jagged back into his pads.

And before England had rediscovered their bearings, their anchorman was dragged from the crease as well. Stoneman had survived a torrid first hour, including an inside-edged four to get off the mark against Southee, and was beginning to find his fluency when Southee turned him inside-out with another perfect seamer, which nibbled half a bat's width from just back of a length, and fizzed off the edge into the safe hands of Tom Latham at second slip.

It was another infuriatingly half-formed effort from Stoneman, a player who looks to have the temperament to be the rock at the top of the order that Cook, on current form, can no longer be, but whose scores are consistently falling short of matching those impressions. He has made just four single-figure scores in 17 visits to the crease in Tests, but also reached four half-centuries with a best of 56. His 35 was typically middle-of-the-road.

That is, however, an improvement on the returns of both Vince (two fifties from 21 innings) and, surely more troublingly, Cook, who has passed 50 just twice in his past 20 innings. Admittedly, those two scores have been the small matter of 243 against West Indies at Edgbaston and 244 not out against Australia in Melbourne - an innings which point to his enduring class, and his enduring ability to make a start count.

However, those starts have been fewer and further between for Cook, and he never looked likely to bed in here. He survived a tight appeal from Southee's first delivery, which struck the pad on the line of leg stump but would have be going over, but with his footwork going nowhere, he was a sitting duck for Boult's pace and seam movement, and had his off stump detonated for 2.

Cook's current series total of nine runs in three innings epitomises the fact that the New Zealand leg of this long and arduous winter has been no rest cure. But it also confirms a growing sense that his long and distinguished career is reaching a crisis point.