England had to work hard for their wickets as a New Zealand XI replied to the tourists' 426 all out on day two of four at the Queenstown Events Centre ground.
Hamish Rutherford (77no) in particular was in apparent cruise control against a seam attack led by Stuart Broad, in a teatime total of 151 for three.
The opener therefore cemented his claims to a Test debut next week, when he is likely to partner Peter Fulton.
After Ian Bell (158) was finally last out for England, they drew a blank in an hour's bowling before lunch.
But Tom Latham was lbw to the first ball of the afternoon from Graeme Swann, going across his stumps and pushing to leg.
Broad eventually found some extra bounce and had Carl Cachopa fencing low to second slip - where Swann took a neat catch.
Neil Broom started confidently but was run out by a direct hit from Kevin Pietersen at point after being called through for a single by Rutherford.