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CHRISTCHURCH: Henry Nicholls and Matt Henry spearheaded a commanding display as New Zealand built a 387-run first-innings lead that left South Africa in deep strife on day two of the first Test on Friday.

At stumps in Christchurch, South Africa were three for 34, with Temba Bavuma on 22 and Rassie van der Dussen on nine, and needing another 353 to make New Zealand bat again.

The record first-innings deficit overhauled for victory is 291 by Australia against Sri Lanka in 1992.

South African coach Mark Boucher called it "a tough two days, extremely disappointing," as his side failed to live up to expectations after their series win against India last month.

"In all three disciplines, our batting, our bowling and our fielding has been very disappointing."

New Zealand were all out in their first innings late on day two for 482 in reply to South Africa's 95.

The home side's innings was anchored by Nicholls with 105. Tom Blundell (96) commanded the middle and tail while number 11 batsman Matt Henry added to his seven for 23 with the ball by frustrating the South Africans with an unbeaten 57.

Henry then took one of the three South African second innings wickets to fall.

Nicholls, who went to the middle with New Zealand at two for 36, said the consistent big partnerships that followed "set the tone" for the match. "There was a bit on offer for the bowlers but as we ended up scoring about four an over we put pressure on the bowling attack and that was the recipe for us," he said.

"Certainly for me plus the other guys in the team who play here a bit, you get used to the ball doing a bit."

During his 267 minutes at the crease, Nicholls shared in partnerships of 75 with Devon Conway (36), 80 with Neil Wagner (49), and 48 with Daryl Mitchell (16).

As the wicket flattened into a more suitable batting strip rather than the green-tinged bowlers' paradise when the tourists were rolled on the first day, Blundell took advantage of a tiring South African pace attack.

He saw off the second new ball in a 76-run stand with Colin de Grandhomme (45) for the seventh wicket and added 94 for the final wicket with Henry.

Wagner whirlwind

There were seven New Zealand partnerships better than South Africa's best of 33 between Zubayr Hamza and Kyle Verreynne.

As New Zealand commanded the crease, South Africa captain Dean Elgar had some reward when he turned to part-time spinner Aiden Markram with the second new ball only 9.4 overs old.

Markram had immediate success with de Grandhomme's wicket just before tea and immediately after the resumption, he removed Kyle Jamieson for 15 to have New Zealand 368 for eight.

Tim Southee went quickly for four but when South Africa thought the innings end was in sight, Blundell and Henry kept them in the field for a further 101 deliveries.

Nicholls, dropped on five and 24, gave no further chances until he edged Duanne Olivier to second slip to be out for 105.

New Zealand ahead after Henry's seven destroys South Africa

While the left-hander provided a calming influence at the crease, nightwatchman Wagner was all aggression in a whirlwind opening hour.

He was particularly harsh on debutant Glenton Stuurman with two fours and a six off his first over of the day and another six two overs later.

Despite the pounding from Wagner, Stuurman got his first Test wicket with an outswinger that Mitchell edged to Dean Elgar at first slip.

Olivier was the most successful South African bowler with three for 100, while Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen and Aiden Markram took two apiece.

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