After the joyous cricketing smorgasbord of Lord’s, there was the undeniable feeling that Headingley had a tough act to follow – the public’s appetite for free-flowing, helter-skelter cricket had been whetted and they were hungry for more.
Bearing that in mind, the match got off to an inauspicious start, powerless against the oldest scourge of English cricket – persistent rain – the day’s overs were reduced before a bowl had even been bowled.
In the end we need not have worried, 65 overs proving more than enough to sate even the most gluttonous of cricket watchers, both bat and ball dominating spells on a day that saw nearly 300 runs scored and eight wickets fall.
And so to the heroes of the piece, New Zealand, the current darlings of world cricket and not without good reason.
They are a team in their captain’s image, fearless, skilful and with a determination to attack that tiptoes dangerously between courageous and foolhardy, like a shoeless man trying to pick his way across a floor strewn with broken glass.
How many sides having been reduced to 2/2 – their best batsman back in the hutch without scoring – would have decided that was the moment to go on the front foot?
But then this is de rigueur for Brendon’s band of merry men, seemingly always just one setting below death or glory, their swashbuckling giving the Three Musketeers a run for their money.
Injury to free-swinging Corey Anderson, thwarted star of their second innings at Lord’s, might have phased some teams – instead his replacement Luke Ronchi smashed his way to 88 off 70 balls, not bad for New Zealand’s oldest debutant since 1966.
Perhaps this is to be expected from a side led by McCullum, a man whose stocky frame implies he could happily wrestle several fully grown pigs, and a man who sees his side in trouble at 68/3 and decides despite to smash his first ball for six anyway.
It is a shame then that this is just a two-match series, a whirlwind romance before going back to the centuries-old, loveless marriage of this summer’s Ashes.
The cricket calendar may be more overstuffed than a Tudor ten-bird roast, but New Zealand deserve more than this, the cricket-watching public deserve more than this – this series will be cut off just as it roars excitingly onwards.
However this Test ends, it will be surely be an anticlimax, the series denied the final notes of the crescendo it was building towards.
It will go instead quietly into the records, a mere amuse-bouche before the Ashes barbie is fired up in July, New Zealand uninvited yet fully deserving a proper party of their own.Reuse content