Auckland: Kane Williamson's New Zealand-record 18th Test century brightened an otherwise wet and gloomy day two as the hosts tightened their grip on the first Test against England on Friday.
Williamson's 102 provided a rare moment of cheer on a truncated day when play was restricted to 23.1 overs with only 54 runs scored.
The Black Caps skipper fell after guiding his side to a substantial first innings lead as New Zealand reached 229 for four, 171 runs ahead of England with six wickets in hand.
Williamson reached his milestone century, one more than Ross Taylor and the late Martin Crowe, with a deft single through gully just before the first rain disruption brought an early tea adjournment.
When play resumed more than an hour later, he added only two further runs before being dismissed leg before.
James Anderson, the best of the England bowlers with three for 53, found swing with the second new ball and brought one back into Williamson who was trapped plumb in front of the sticks.
It brought a close to an excellent knock in which Williamson rebuilt the New Zealand innings after they were one for eight in reply to England's 58.
He faced 220 deliveries to bat New Zealand into a position of dominance with partnerships of 84 with Tom Latham, 31 with Ross Taylor and 83 with Nicholls.
Nicholls, who started the New Zealand summer needing strong performances to cement his place as the number six batsman, stepped up from his pre-Christmas form when he had innings of 67, 13 and five against the West Indies.
After resuming the day on 24, he batted calmly with Williamson and then assumed the anchor role when the captain departed and he was joined by Watling.
Watling, back in the side after being sidelined by a hip injury for several months, wasted no time settling in as he raced to 17 off 20 deliveries, while Nicholls has faced 143 balls for his 49.
Because of the weather disruptions, play has been extended by 30 minutes at the end of the day, conditions permitting.