London - New Zealand-born Ben Stokes took charge of England's recovery before falling agonisingly short of a hundred on the first day of the first Test at Lord's on Thursday.
At tea, England were 219 for five.
They had been 30 for four when Durham all-rounder Stokes came in but his dashing 92 helped revive their fortunes during a stand of 161 with Joe Root (80 not out).
Jos Buttler was unbeaten on 13 at tea.
After celebrated former umpire Dickie Bird rang the five-minute bell, New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum saw his decision to field first vindicated with the fall of four early wickets, including two for debutant fast bowler Matt Henry.
All three of New Zealand's frontline quicks, plus McCullum himself, had only arrived in England just days before this match after stints in the Indian Premier League.
But there were few signs of rustiness as they made the most of a green-tinged pitch, albeit the skies above Lord's were largely sunny and blue.
Instead debutant England opener Adam Lyth, selected after Jonathan Trott retired following a run of low scores during the disappointing 1-1 series draw in the West Indies, was caught behind off Tim Southee for seven.
The 100th Test between England and New Zealand then saw the hosts three wickets for five runs in 15 balls.
Trent Boult had Gary Ballance caught at third slip for one before England captain Alastair Cook, who had made 16, fell when, beaten for pace by 23-year-old Canterbury quick Henry, he top-edged an attempted hook through to wicket-keeper BJ Watling.
Henry then produced another classic fast bowler's delivery to dismiss Ian Bell for one, a full-length ball pitching on off stump and holding its line.
Root, recently installed as England's vice-captain, had a nervy moment on 36 when he was struck on the back leg after missing a sweep against off-spinner Mark Craig but survived New Zealand's lbw review.
At lunch, England were 113 for four with Root 49 not out and left-hander Stokes unbeaten 36.
After the interval, Root completed a 53-ball fifty.
But it was Stokes -- the son of former New Zealand rugby league international Ged Stokes but brought up in England -- who really took the attack to the tourists.
He went from 64 to 89 in just 11 balls, including a pulled six off Henry an a couple of superbly-timed clips for four through midwicket off Boult.
New Zealand, with Tom Latham replacing the injured Watling behind the stumps, struggled to check the flow of runs.
However, Stokes -- eyeing what would have been just his second Test hundred following his brilliant 120 against Australia at Perth in December 2013 -- then played a key role in his own downfall.
The 23-year-old left a delivery from Craig only to see the ball come down the Lord's slope and clatter into his stumps.
A disbelieving Stokes walked off slowly, having faced just 94 balls, including 15 fours and a six, in a bold, counter-attacking stand with Root that had taken England to 191 for five.