Rory Burns made his fortune on his way to a half-century of disarray when England's top order on the opening day of the first cricket test attempted to wear down the New Zealand bowlers.

The black caps have failed to check a caught behind the appeal when Burns was at 10 when hot spot revealed a faint edge.

The captain of Surrey then put a margin between the first and second slip on 37 before he performed his fifth half century in an English jersey when this two-test series began in Mount Maunganui.

Burns was eventually caught out before tea for 52, and with captain Joe Root failing for two, England reached 121 for three in the brief break.

The Englishman Joe Denly made a solid impression on tea (Mark Baker / AP)

Seamer Colin De Grandhomme made a fraction of the movement in the air, as he was responsible for both Burns and his co-star Dom Sibley, who scored 22 goals in the debut.

There was little support for the rest of the New Zealand attack, but they could keep the tourists on a leash who decided to strike first on a glorious sunny day at Bay Oval, where the first test takes place.

Sibley, better known for his attritional approach, cut his first ball through Midwicket for four minutes before moving on to his comfort zone and scoring 21 consecutive points.

Burns were spared early on when Hot Spot spearheaded Trent Boult. Elsewhere, there was little cause for concern as the former Surrey teammates set up a 52-run opening.

New Zealand's Colin de Grandhomme, left, is congratulated by his teammates after dismissing Dom Sibley (Mark Baker / AP)

All Sibley runs had run between Long Leg and Midwicket. He died as he tried to drive De Grandhomme into the middle, with a fraction of the movement causing the edge to be hit when Ross Taylor took the catch on the first slip-up.

Joe Denly needed 21 deliveries to get away with it, and was involved in a fascinating duel with Neil Wagner, who was predictably in short supply when he dropped a 12-over spell interrupted by the lunch break.

Both had their moments: on four occasions, Denly pulled authoritatively to the limit, but there was some concern as a top edge landed in front of the gully and Wagner narrowly missed his stump.

Burns got rougher and rougher. He was hit on his helmet to avoid Wagner's bouncer before he was released when neither Taylor nor Tom Latham moved in the slips when Tim Southee's flank appeared between them.

The kickoff survived a check for lbw, barely holding high, raising his 50 and returning moments later. De Grandhomme made a loose dash and BJ Watling completed a simple catch.

Root needed 21 deliveries to get off the mark, but fell to his next ball, fishing outside the tree stump and bringing Wagner to Southee on the second slip.

Denly was at 41 for tea after an afternoon session in which only 60 runs from 27 overs were added.