BJ Watling
BJ Watling is the first New Zealander to score a test century at Headingley. AFP

BJ Watling notched a terrific century as New Zealand reached stumps on day three of the second test against England with a commanding 338-run lead.

The hosts, still needing four wickets tomorrow morning, will have to produce the second biggest test run chase ever seen at Headingley if they are to emerge victorious from another thrilling contest.

With the start of play delayed slightly by yet more bad weather, England resumed on 253-5 and lost Ian Bell early on when the Warwickshire stalwart could only guide a Tim Southee outswinger to Mark Craig at second slip.

A similar delivery had Jos Buttler caught by Ross Taylor and the confident Southee continued to wreak havoc with the new ball as Moeen Ali edged to Martin Guptill for one.

Trent Boult was then denied after Watling dropped Stuart Broad at deep square leg, an incident that initially looked costly as the latter combined with Mark Wood to produce a hearty ninth-wicket stand of 51.

Wood eventually fell for 19 after his thin edge carried through to Luke Ronchi and Broad made 46 before Matt Henry crashed a delivery into his middle stump to leave the scores level at 350.

In response, New Zealand reached the interval at 7-0 but Tom Latham was removed quickly after lunch when he edged to Buttler off Broad.

Kane Williamson did likewise four overs later, but Guptill proved a far tougher nut to crack and reached his 50 from 47 balls before he was caught by Root at slip for 70.

With the Black Caps at 143-4 at tea, Brendon McCullum looked to keep the scoreboard ticking over into an extended evening session with a slightly more reserved and conservative innings by his usual bold standards.

While the captain was not as eye-catchingly adventurous as we have seen him in the past, he was no less effective and New Zealand continued to score at an impressive rate with Watling notching a half century from 79 deliveries.

England persisted with spinners Ali and Root in an attempt to stem the flow of runs, but McCullum, who survived a big lbw shout, reached his 50 one ball after almost being caught by Wood when driving powerfully for four through mid-off.

Wood bounced back from that frustration quickly, however, trapping McCullum lbw. Initially given out on the field, he quickly appealed but the decision was upheld after replays showed the ball was just about hitting the bails.

James Anderson, who became the first Englishman to reach 400 test wickets earlier in the match, got his first of the day when he caused debutant Ronchi to edge behind for a rather swift 31.

The seemingly unmovable Watling continued an excellent innings to bring up his century in the closing stages and New Zealand finished the day in a strong position to go on and tie the two-match series at 1-1.