Henry Nicholls battled to his sixth Test century and provided the backbone for a New Zealand middle order fightback as his side reached 294-6 at the end of a torrid first day of the second Test against West Indies in Wellington on Friday.

The 29-year-old left-hander was on 117 with Kyle Jamieson on one at stumps at the Basin Reserve.

Nicholls had not passed 50 in 13 Test innings since scoring 107 against Bangladesh at the same ground in March 2019 and rode his luck on a pitch that offered the West Indies bowlers' assistance all day.

He was dropped three times, twice at first slip, and took several deliveries on the body from the visitors' pace attack but shared in a 70-run partnership with Will Young (43), 55 runs with BJ Watling (30) and 83 with Daryl Mitchell (42).

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West Indies captain Jason Holder had won the toss and asked New Zealand captain Tom Latham, who was standing in for Kane Williamson, to bat on a heavily-grassed wicket that had been under covers all week.

Shannon Gabriel provided a horror opening for the tourist, who need a victory to level the two-match series, by bowling too wide on a full length and conceded 21 runs in his first two overs.

Gabriel shortened his length slightly after those first 12 deliveries and got the ball to move and jump off a length to create numerous false shots.

He also hit all of the batsmen several times and captured the wickets of Tom Blundell (14), Young and Ross Taylor (nine) to finish with figures of 3-57 from 18 overs.

Debutant Chemar Holder also proved a handful for New Zealand's batsmen and finished the day with 2-65.