It took England's bowlers just 65 minutes yesterday to take five New Zealand wickets, completing a thumping victory in the third Test and a 2-0 series triumph. On a morning made for cricket the 16,000 spectators who flocked to Trent Bridge did not know whether to cheer or complain. Had bad light or rain restricted their viewing to 12 overs and three balls they would have been entitled to a 50 per cent refund.
The more adventurous punters who were prepared to invest a few quid on England winning the series by such a margin at the mid-point of the second Test at Old Trafford, when New Zealand were 264 runs ahead with eight second-innings wickets in hand, will be sitting on a handsome profit. The brevity of cricket yesterday will not have bothered them. The sight of Nottinghamshire's Ryan Sidebottom bowling England to victory acted as a prelude to champagne and strawberries on the banks of the River Trent. Heaven.
England can take great credit and confidence from recovering from perilous positions in consecutive Tests, though, worryingly, it appears they need a potentially calamitous situation to bring the best out of them. In March, Michael Vaughan's side lost the first Test in New Zealand and were poorly placed in the second, only to come back and win 2-1. They have now won four of their last five Tests. It is to be hoped they do not require such a stimulant in a month's time, when they take on South Africa at Lord's.
"The result here suggests we have got better as the series wore on, but we still had to get out of a tricky position on the first day when we were on 86 for 5," said Michael Vaughan, the England captain. "It was a position we did not want to be in. The partnership between Kevin Pietersen and Tim Ambrose set us up for a good score, and the partnership between Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson on the second morning seemed to knock the stuffing out of New Zealand.
"We always knew the ball was going to swing around and that our bowlers would be suited to those conditions. I never envisaged winning by an innings but we should be given full credit for the way we played. I am encouraged by the way we have got ourselves out of difficult situations but, ideally, I would like not to be in them. The sign of a good team is getting out of them, but the sign of a really good team is not getting in them in the first place. There are areas where we need to improve and the South Africa series will provide us with the ultimate test.
"What pleases me most is that it is not the same people doing it every game. Every bowler has stuck his hand up at certain times, and each batsman has helped get us through a tricky position, whether it was in New Zealand or over here."
The last remark was an attempt to ease the pressure on Paul Collingwood and Ian Bell, England's poorest performers. Both contributed in New Zealand but in three home Tests the pair scored 77 runs in eight innings. Vaughan believes the Twenty20 and one-day series that starts in Manchester on Friday will provide the under-fire pair with the cricket they need to regain top form.
Rain on Saturday stopped England wrapping the Test up in three days. It affected Anderson's rhythm too and, in the end, he had to settle for career-best figures of 7 for 43, not the 10-for everyone was craving. The performance of Anderson obviously put Sidebottom's nose out of joint. Didn't Anderson know New Zealand were his bunnies?
On Saturday England's player of the year became involved in an ugly and needless altercation with Jamie How, the New Zealand opener. How did nothing wrong, yet it did not prevent Sidebottom from giving him a mouthful when he dismissed him. He was fortunate to escape punishment. Brendon McCullum and Daniel Flynn threatened to bring the Black Caps back into the Test after that but with the light fading both fell.
Yesterday, with his mood improved and only five wickets required, Sidebottom struck in the sixth over, finding the outside edge of Gareth Hopkins' bat with a ball angled across him. Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, then drove loosely at the same bowler and was caught by Pietersen at gully. The departure of Vettori gave Jacob Oram freedom to play his shots and he did just that, the all-rounder reaching 50 off 39 balls.
Kyle Mills and Iain O'Brien were quickly dismissed, edging to slip, as did Chris Martin, who was well caught by Collingwood. That dismissal meant that New Zealand had lost five wickets for 35 runs in 40 balls. It was fitting that Anderson took the final wicket because it was his superb swing bowling in the first innings that ensured England's dominance.
England now enter a world where New Zealand have an advantage. The Black Caps were the better side in February's one-day series. England's mood may be lifted for the South Africa series, however, by the return of Andrew Flintoff.
"I hope Flintoff is available," Vaughan said. "If he is fit I would love to have him in my team. It is four and a half weeks till the first Test against South Africa and I hope he gets the cricket he needs before then, so that he is confident in himself. I'd love a five-man attack against South Africa but the balance of the team is very important when you play against a side like South Africa."
This win moved England up to third in the world rankings, one ahead of South Africa. Everyone will have a better idea of where Vaughan's side stand in August, after Graeme Smith's team have been faced.
Shot of the day
England's bowlers have been attempting to bully the New Zealand all-rounder Jacob Oram with aggressive short bowling since the second Test at Old Trafford but the burly Kiwi showed he can pack a punch yesterday. His quickfire half-century contained two huge sixes: one pulled off the bowling of Stuart Broad but the second, off James Anderson, was even better, flying over long on and deep into the crowd.
Ball of the day
A swing bowler only has to curve one ball to get batsmen thinking. Ryan Sidebottom did just that, a skill that then makes straight balls far more troublesome. The New Zealand wicketkeeper Gareth Hopkins played for an in-swinger yesterday morning but the ball went straight on, found the outside edge of his bat and carried through to Tim Ambrose behind the stumps.
Moment of the day
England required only five wickets to secure their victory yesterday morning but the Nottingham public turned up in their thousands, almost filling Trent Bridge. It was great to see – what with all the talk of the explosion of Twenty20 cricket – that interest is still high in Test matches, especially when the sun shines and England are winning.
Long may the combination continue.
Passing the Test with flying colours: The pick of England's victorious players
The England opener needed a strong series to prove that he was back to his best and the 177 he scored against New Zealand in March was not a one-off. He did just that, accumulating more runs in the series – 266 at an average of 66.5 – than any other player. His hundred in the second innings of the second Test at Old Trafford was as good a display of batting as he has produced for a long time.
The time Strauss spent away from the Test side, when he was dropped for the pre-Christmas tour of Sri Lanka, appears to have done him a lot of good. The break allowed him to take a step back from his troubles, work at his game and regain enthusiasm. The 31-year-old is now playing as he was at the start of his England career. His feet are moving well and he is scoring more runs down the ground.
The departure of Marcus Trescothick messed Strauss up. Alastair Cook and Strauss are similar players and, as the senior partner, he took it upon himself to try to be England's enforcer, taking the game to the opposition. It is not Strauss's natural game. He is at his best when he picks bowlers off.
The England seamer continues to make an impressive start to his Test career. He bowled with hostility and intelligence throughout the series, and showed great maturity with the bat. His 64 in England's first innings at Trent Bridge highlighted his potential with the bat. He could yet become a No 7 or 6, although we are then entering all-rounder territory, which may raise expectations too high.
A significant haul with the ball is yet to come his way, but it will. He was the pick of England's bowlers here on Saturday and bowled ahead of James Anderson yesterday. So far he has provided a supporting role for players such as Ryan Sidebottom, Anderson and Monty Panesar, bowlers with greater experience. The South Africa series, along with improved weather and less bowler-friendly pitches, will give a stronger indication of where he is as a bowler.
If Broad continues to employ the simple game plan he currently has, which is geared around bowling a good line on or just outside off-stump and moving the ball away from the bat, he has the potential to become a Glenn McGrath-type figure.
This series has given Anderson the perfect platform from which to go on and show that he is a high-quality fast bowler with the potential to take hundreds of Test wickets. He was the highest wicket-taker in the three-Test series, claiming 19 scalps at an excellent average of 19.3. Self-belief, not talent, is the attribute occasionally missing from Anderson's game and England will be hoping that the performances against New Zealand will provide him with the confidence to push on.
Anderson is never going to be the steady-eddie type figure of England's attack, bowling 22 overs that cost 45 runs. He will always concede runs and there will be days when he appears to be a liability. But if the good days come along and he continues to swing the ball he will remain a fixture in the side.
As with Broad, South Africa and less swingy conditions will provide a sterner test, but Anderson should enter the four-Test series in a great frame of mind. England have invested a great deal in him over the past five years and they are beginning to be rewarded.
Trent Bridge scoreboard
New Zealand won toss
England – First innings 364 (K P Pietersen 115, T R Ambrose 67, S C J Broad 64; I E O'Brien 4-74).
New Zealand – First innings
(Friday 96 for 6)
†G J Hopkins lbw b Anderson......... 15
108 min, 61 balls, 1 four
*D L Vettori c Strauss b Sidebottom......... 7
29 min, 24 balls, 1 four
K D Mills c Pietersen b Broad......... 1
26 min, 17 balls
I E O'Brien b Broad......... 0
2 min, 2 balls
C S Martin not out......... 0
3 min, 1 ball
Extras (b8 lb8 w6)......... 22
Total (214 min, 46.3 overs)......... 123
Fall (cont): 7-108 (Vettori) 8-123 (Mills) 9-123 (O'Brien) 10-123 (Hopkins).
Bowling: Sidebottom 17-4-49-1 (w5) (7-1-18-0, 10-3-31-1); Anderson 21-8-43-6 (w1) (7-0-25-, 14-8-18-4); Collingwood 2-0-5-0 (one spell); Broad 6-3-10-2 (5-2-10-0, 1-1-0-2).
Progress: Third day (min 98 overs): Rain and bad light delayed start until 1.39pm. 100: 164 min, 35.3 overs. Innings closed 2.37pm.
New Zealand – Second Innings
(Overnight: 177 for 5)
J M How c Cook b Sidebottom......... 19
62 min, 42 balls, 3 fours
A J Redmond c Ambrose b Broad......... 2
36 min, 22 balls
B B McCullum b Anderson......... 71
185 min, 126 balls, 9 fours
L R P L Taylor lbw b Broad......... 14
36 min, 23 balls, 2 fours
D R Flynn c Ambrose b Sidebottom......... 49
153 min, 105 balls, 6 fours
†G J Hopkins c Ambrose b Sidebottom......... 12
67 min, 55 balls, 2 fours
J D P Oram not out......... 50
74 min, 39 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes
*D L Vettori c Pietersen b Sidebottom......... 1
9 min, 7 balls
K D Mills c Strauss b Sidebottom......... 2
17 min, 10 balls
I E O'Brien c Collingwood b Sidebottom......... 4
4 min, 4 balls, 1 four
C S Martin c Collingwood b Anderson......... 0
4 min, 2 balls
Extras (b3 lb4 w1)......... 8
Total (328 min, 72.3 overs)......... 232
Fall: 1-21 (Redmond) 2-33 (How) 3-58 (Taylor) 4-152 (McCullum) 5-169 (Flynn) 6-197 (Hopkins) 7-205 (Vettori) 8-221 (Mills) 9-225 (O'Brien) 10-232 (Martin).
Bowling: Sidebottom 24-7-67-6 (3-0-7-0, 4-2-5-1, 6-2-13-0, 3-0-22-0, 8-3-20-5); Anderson 14.3-3-55-2 (4-3-7-0, 4-0-16-0, 5-0-20-1, 1.3-0-12-1); Broad 21-4-77-2 (w1) (10-3-32-2, 2-0-8-0, 3-1-4-0, 1-0-2-0, 5-0-31-0); Panesar 11-4-21-0 (4-1-8-0, 2-1-1-0, 2-0-10-0, 3-2-2-0); Collingwood 2-1-5-0 (one spell).
Progress: Third day: Tea: 45-2 (McCullum 16, Taylor 8) 18 overs. 50: 92 min, 19.2 overs. 100: 168 min, 37 overs. 150: 221 min, 49.4 overs. Close: 177-5 (Hopkins 7, Oram 8) 60 overs. Fourth day (min 98 overs): 200: 293 min, 65.5 overs. Innings closed 12.03pm.
McCullum's 50: 157 mins, 103 balls, 6 fours. Oram's 50: 73 mins, 39 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes.
England won by an innings and nine runs.
Man of the match: J M Anderson.
Men of the series: A J Strauss and D L Vettori.
Umpires: S A Bucknor (WI) and D B Hair (Aus).
TV replay umpire: P J Hartley.
Match referee: R S Madugalle.