After Heather Knight won the toss and chose to bat in stunning conditions, Amy Jones, under pressure for her place at the top of the order, quickly climbed into her stride and set about setting up the innings with gusto.
Racing to fifty moments before the 15-over drinks break, Jones manoeuvred the ball assertively, so much so that the in-form Tammy Beaumont was allowed to play the supporting role in a partnership that grew to 100 inside 19 overs.
England's opening pair made hay while the sun beamed down on Headingley. On a vast ground, gaps in the field were plentiful and both batsmen pierced them with consistency until Beaumont was caught behind from the bowling of Lea Tahuhu for a well-made 40.
And then came the stumble, forced by 17-year-old Kiwi leg-spinner Amelia Kerr. Achieving noticeable turn out of a true but understandably dry surface, she had Jones stumped for 63, then Sarah Taylor caught behind for an eventful 26. At 148-3, England's breezy momentum was slowing.
It is during these moments that England have so often faltered in their post-World Cup hangover. Not today. Nat Sciver and skipper Knight produced a classy partnership, using the crease to their full advantage to release the ball into unorthodox areas. They put on 67 in double-quick time before Tuhuhu snared Sciver LBW for 37.
Knight continued, however, providing impetus alongside Barnsley-born Katherine Brunt, who long-handled her way to 30 not out. The captain was eventually dismissed for 63 from 58 balls. In her revised batting position down the order, York's Lauren Whinfield made an unbeaten nine as the innings finished on 290-5.
After the turnaround, New Zealand openers Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine saw off the new ball partnership of Brunt and debutant Katie George to race to 70-0 before a whirlwind passage of play saw four wickets fall for just five runs. That spell changed the complexion of the game and stopped the New Zealand chase in its tracks.
Two of them came courtesy of magnificent catches by Sophie Eccleston. The first, diving over her shoulder as Devine slapped Georgie Elwiss to mid-off, was the better, Devine departing for 33. The second, from Nat Sciver's first ball of the match, had her diving the opposite way, this time with Bates leaving with 28.
Wicket-to-wicket medium pace was the order of the day, Elwiss and Sciver operating the tactic with precision. Sciver had Katey Martin caught in the deep for one, dangerwoman Amy Satterthwaite was removed LBW by Elwiss for two and suddenly, England were a long way in the ascendancy with New Zealand 75-4.
The game was won there and then. The required run rate increased as wickets fell at regular intervals, New Zealand's chase soon meandered into a laboured limp. Skipper Knight was able to rotate her bowlers at will as the White Fearns finished on 148 all out. Katie George wrapped up the innings with her first ODI wicket, trapping Holly Huddlestone for one.
The victory puts them a match up in a three-fixture series. The two teams will resume battle at Derby on Tuesday.