Tom Latham, Devon Conway lead fight after New Zealand made to follow on
Jack Leach chips away but England toil in the field after asking hosts to bat again
New Zealand 209 (Southee 73, Broad 4-61) and 202 for 3 (Williamson 25*, Nicholls 18*) trail England 435 for 8 dec by 24 runs
New Zealand produced their best top-order batting performance of the series to push England back after being asked to follow on at Basin Reserve. Tom Latham and Devon Conway scored half-centuries during a 149-run opening stand, but Jack Leach made important breakthroughs to keep England on top as the Wellington Test settled into a more traditional rhythm.
There were signs of some overdue New Zealand defiance during the morning, as Tim Southee climbed into the all-time top ten for Test-match six-hitting during a belligerent innings of 73 from 49 balls. His efforts weren't enough to save the follow-on, but it perhaps provided a spark for the hosts as they were invited to bat again 226 runs in arrears.
Latham and Conway then batted through the afternoon session to transfer further pressure on to England. An overcast start to the day steadily gave way to watery sunshine, and as conditions eased so New Zealand were able to begin plotting a route back into the contest.
Although the pitch had settled down, there was still a hint of turn for Leach, who made the breakthrough shortly after tea when he had Conway snapped up at short leg via an inside edge on to pad. Joe Root's offspin then accounted for Latham, whose lbw sweeping was upheld on review, and when Leach pegged back Will Young's off stump with a precise piece of SLA geometry from round the wicket, New Zealand had lost 3 for 18 in short order.
They were guided to the close by an unbroken stand between Kane Williamson, who was inching ever closer to Ross Taylor's New Zealand Test run-scoring record, and Henry Nicholls. Williamson survived an England review when Root got one to turn sharply past his glove, and Nicholls at times lived dangerously, a pair of sharp bat-pad chances off Leach evading Ollie Pope at short leg.
England had three overs with the second new ball and, despite being unable to make further inroads, will feel they remain in a position of strength with two days left in which to push for a series-clinching win.
The bulk of the good work for New Zealand was done by the openers, who were rarely flustered on the way to a century stand. Latham was the more fluent, becoming the seventh New Zealander to pass 5000 runs in Test cricket. He was typically strong square of the wicket and picked off regular boundaries, although might have been dismissed on 62 had Leach managed to close his fingers around a sharp caught-and-bowled chance.
Conway had needed to dig in at the start of his innings, with Ollie Robinson troubling him around off stump and short leg interested whenever he closed the face. Leach did find his inside edge, the ball evading Ben Stokes at leg slip, but he battled through a testing examination up to lunch and began to find his range thereafter, driving Stuart Broad for fours either side of mid-off in the same over.
Leach was lofted down the ground for six, before the returning James Anderson had Conway fencing an outside edge, only for the ball to dip beneath the fingertips of Zak Crawley at second slip.
Latham was the first to fifty, Conway emulating him an over later, with the pair beginning to play more expansively as New Zealand cut the deficit to double-figures. Such was their apparent comfort that Stokes elected to bring himself on after tea, but England's captain delivered just two overs, in which he was twice no-balled for exceeding the permitted number of short deliveries above shoulder height and once for overstepping.
The fight shown by Latham and Conway was of a different stripe to Southee's cavalry charge during the morning, a fusillade of boundaries lifting home spirits before Broad claimed the last three wickets to enable England to enforce the follow-on midway through the session. Conditions remained favourable for seam bowling and the potential for the pitch to continue to improve for batting encouraged Stokes to have another crack.
New Zealand's first innings had an anaemic look, resuming at 138 for 7, but Southee duly showcased his six-hitter's eye before falling four runs short of equalling his Test best score. His intent was clear as he charged at his second ball from Leach and just about got away with a toe-ended slog that cleared Stokes running back from mid-on.
Another full-blooded mow down the ground brought four more in the same over, before Robinson was slapped through the covers. Leach then felt the full force of Southee's world-class ability to hit sixes, three times going the journey in a single over as New Zealand's captain raced to a 39-ball half-century.
A Robinson was bumper was swatted for Test six No. 82, drawing Southee level with Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hayden, and another boundary off Broad brought him within sight of the 77 not out he made against England at Napier on debut in 2008. He was dropped at fine leg next ball, but immediately offered up another chance to midwicket as Broad ended the stand at 98.
Tom Blundell still had designs on averting the prospect of the follow-on, but miscued an advance in Broad's next over to be held by Leach at mid-on. Henry then spliced a catch to backward point to give England the option to enforce. The jury is still out on whether it was a wise move.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick