Wellington, March 16 (IANS) New Zealand bounced back to take two South African wickets as the visitors ended the opening day of the second cricket Test at 24/2 in response to the host's first innings score of 268 at the Basin Reserve here on Thursday.
At stumps, night watchman Kasigo Rabada was unbeaten on eight while former skipper Hashim Amla was still to open his account.
Earlier, a maiden Test century by Henry Nicholls (118) helped New Zealand recover from a precarious 21/3 as the hosts went on to make 268 after being put into bat.
Nicholls, who went into the Test with his position under scrutiny, answered his critics with an innings of substance which came off 161 balls and was laced with 15 boundaries.
In one over from Rabada, Nicholls hit three fours, the second taking him past his previous best of 98 and to his century, and the next took his excellent partnership with wicketkeeper-batsman B.J. Watling (34) to 103.
His dismissal triggered a brief collapse in which three wickets fell for five runs but Tim Southee and Jeetan Patel then threw their bats around for a run-a-ball 44-run stand to lift New Zealand further.
In the morning session, South Africa pacer Morne Morkel dismissed Tom Latham for eight to start with, and Rabada sent back Kane Williamson (2) and Neil Broom, the debutant for nought, quickly thereafter to bring Nicholls to the middle.
Keshav Maharaj removed Jeet Raval (36) and Jimmy Neesham (15) either side of the lunch break before Watling joined Nicholls to add 116 before Jean Paul Duminy bowled Nicholls.
Duminy added the wickets of Colin de Grandhomme for four and Watling for 34 in the space of 11 balls and finished the innings when he trapped Neil Wagner in front for figures of 4/47.
Morkel ended Southee's brief cameo of 27 off 30 deliveries while Patel was left not out 17.
In reply, Southee and de Grandhomme built on Nicholls's effort by sending back visiting openers Stephen Cook (3) and Dean Elgar (9) respectively by the sixth over of South Africa's first essay.
Brief Scores: New Zealand first innings 268 (Henry Nicholls 118, Jeet Raval 36, B.J. Watling 34, Jean Paul Duminy 4/47, Keshav Maharaj 2/47) vs South Africa first innings 24/2 (Dean Elgar 9, Kasigo Rabada 8 not out, Tim Southee 1/18, Colin de Grandhomme 1/2).