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Former captain Ross Taylor returned to form with a century as New Zealand set a challenging target of 270 against England in the second one-day international at McLean Park on Wednesday.
The Black Caps, within sight of a series win after a three-wicket win in the opening match in Hamilton, were all out for 269 in 48.5 overs after losing the toss and being sent in to bat.
The home side recovered from a slow start thanks to a century from Taylor and a quickfire 74 from 36 balls from current skipper Brendon McCullum.
James Anderson was the pick of England's bowlers, claiming figures of five for 34.
New Zealand, missing injured opener Martin Guptill, made a nervy start on a batsman-friendly wicket, with the first boundary coming when Hamish Rutherford pulled a delivery from James Anderson in the fifth over.
The pressure paid off for Anderson in his next over, when he coaxed an edge from BJ Watling (7) which carried to England captain Alastair Cook for an easy catch at first slip.
The same combination sent Rutherford (11) on his way two overs later after the 23-year-old tried to lift the pace on his ODI debut.
New Zealand's frustration mounted as they reached just 22 runs after 12 overs, following miserly spells from Anderson and Steve Finn, who conceded just 11 runs apiece from their first six overs.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor gradually increased the run rate, putting on 72 runs together to take the Black Caps to 91 before Williamson (33) dragged a ball from Chris Woakes on to his stumps to again slow the home side's momentum.
New Zealand's struggle was apparent when Taylor, in his best performance since returning to the international fold after being axed as captain late last year, brought up his half century off 81 balls with only three fours.
Taylor went after the bowling after reaching the milestone, smashing Stuart Broad for six as the Black Caps went into the final 15 overs on a modest 140 but with wickets in hand and looking to build a competitive total.
Grant Elliott's dismissal for 23, caught by substitute fielder Jonny Bairstow off a top edge from Finn, again threatened to put the brakes on before captain McCullum came to the party, smashing 50 off 26 balls.
The pair transformed New Zealand's fortunes, with McCullum departing on 74 after hitting four sixes and nine fours.
Taylor reached his century off 116 balls with a four but was dismissed by the next delivery he faced and the tail failed to fire, leaving England with a tricky but achievable target.