New Zealand took charge of the first Test at Lord's on Thursday, reducing England to 160 for four when rain forced an early close to the first day.
England captain Alastair Cook won the toss and batted but his side rarely got out of first gear in the face of some accurate bowling by the tourists.
Trent Boult was the pick of the attack, removing both Cook and Jonathan Trott after lunch on his way to an economical return of two wickets for 29 runs in 17 overs.
Fellow left-arm seamer Neil Wagner then dismissed Ian Bell for 31 in the final session.
When rain forced an early close, the inexperienced Yorkshire duo of Joe Root (25 not out) and Jonathan Bairstow (three not out) were at the crease.
England's plight would have been worse had not Jonathan Trott, who made a painstaking 39, been dropped by Bruce Martin off his own bowling when on nought.
New Zealand bowled 30 maidens in 80 overs on Thursday -- a testament to their accuracy and the inability of an England top-order missing the injured Kevin Pietersen to hit them out of their stride.
Although blue skies overhead on a sunny day promised ideal conditions for batting, an outfield relaid after the Olympic archery tournament at Lord's last year prevented several well-struck shots getting to the boundary.
England got off to a slow start after Cook won the toss with only two boundaries in the morning session.
Nevertheless, Cook and fellow opener Nick Compton were rarely troubled until the introduction of Bruce Martin, the sole specialist spinner in the side after he was preferred to Doug Bracewell.
New Zealand reeled off four consecutive maidens, including one from Martin before the left-armer floated a delivery up to Compton who, trying to hit 'inside out', miscued and was well caught off the edge by Tim Southee, running back at point for 16.
And 43 for one should have become 48 for two when the 33-year-old Martin, in only his fourth Test and first outside New Zealand, had Trott driving early but dropped the caught and bowled chance.
At lunch, England were 56 for one with left-hander Cook 30 not out and Trott unbeaten on four.
Cook was still on his interval score when he survived an lbw appeal from Boult.
But Boult had his revenge soon afterwards when Cook, on 32, edged defensively at a full length ball and wicket-keeper BJ Watling took a low diving catch to leave England 67 for two.
Trott -- who took 18 balls to get off the mark -- exited shortly before tea when he edged Boult and third slip Dean Brownlie, diving in front of second slip, held an excellent catch.
Trott's 39 took him 96 balls, with England 112 for three.
Bell, a Warwickshire colleague of Trott, was even more becalmed, his 31 taking 133 balls. His innings ended when he followed a delivery slanted across him from Wagner and was caught behind.
England made just one change from the side that drew the third Test against New Zealand at Auckland in March, with Graeme Swann, fit after an elbow injury, replacing fellow spinner Monty Panesar.
New Zealand were unchanged, having come desperately close to taking the match and series in Auckland only for England to cling on to a draw with one wicket left thanks mainly to wicket-keeper Matt Prior's unbeaten hundred.
This is the first of a two-match series which concludes with the second Test at Headingley starting a week on Friday.