Eden Park is a hybrid: a rugby stadium occasionally doubling as a cricket ground which used to resemble a baseball diamond. In those terms there were plenty of home runs yesterday in the first Twenty20 match of three between New Zealand and England.
It was a splendid demonstration of the shortest form of the game, producing from the drop-in pitch 23 sixes, which in essence is what it is all about. Unfortunately for the Kiwis, it was the tourists who struck 15 of them.
England won by 40 runs, a thumping start to the series and one which bodes as well for them as it augurs badly for their opponents. Their total of 214 for 7, after being put in, was their highest in T20s and was impeccably paced.
No batsman made 50, six made more than 20 – and among those, crucially, the lowest strike rate was 131.25. England were shrewd enough to target the small straight boundaries created by the ground being remodelled. This was most amply embodied by Luke Wright who made 42 from 20 balls with four sixes down the ground and then bowled tidily enough to secure the Man of the Match award. With Eoin Morgan adding a little more loose-wristed variety, England were outstanding.
Their batsmen are finding their roles and Jos Buttler, who is growing by the game as a finisher, hit 32 nerveless runs full of zest and invention from 16 balls.
New Zealand were thoroughly perplexed. They compounded their difficulties by dropping five catches and victory would have required the highest successful chase in T20 international history. It was difficult to avoid the conclusion that recent dressing-room upheavals have affected them.
The biggest cheer of the night (from an attendance which, to the relief of the country's cricket board, was more than healthy) was reserved for the former captain Ross Taylor. He was clumsily deposed after a clash with the coach, Mike Henson, and missed the recent tour of South Africa.
There is no doubt where public sympathies lie and New Zealand authorities have much to do to regain favour.
Taylor's emotional welcome was not matched by an appropriate performance. He dropped two catches and, after a diligent start to his innings, was removed by a catch by Jonny Bairstow after swiping at a short ball from Steven Finn.
Stuart Broad, England's returning captain who missed the recent matches in India, said: "It was fantastic to see the freedom the guys batted with and that set us up. We learned a lot from batting first, knowing we could bang out a heavy length and make them hit to the bigger boundaries. It probably wasn't a bad toss to lose."
Broad was the chief beneficiary of New Zealand's need to constantly try to hit sixes. He finished with four wickets in a T20 international for the first time and overtook Graeme Swann as England's leading T20 wicket-taker. Broad now has 52 to Swann's 51.
Eden Park scoreboard
New Zealand won toss
M J Lumb c Rutherford b McClenaghan 22/2/1/15
A D Hales st B B McCullum b Hira 21/1/2/16
L J Wright c Hira b Ellis 42/4/3/20
E J G Morgan c Taylor b Hira 46/3/4/26
J M Bairstow c Guptill b Boult 38/2/3/22
†J C Buttler not out 32/3/2/16
S R Patel c B B McCullum b Ellis 2/0/0/3
*S C J Broad c B B McCullum b Boult 4/0/1/3
J C Tredwell not out 0/0/0/0
Extras (w6, nb1): 7
Total (for 7, 20 overs): 214
Fall 1-29, 2-89, 3-91, 4-172, 5-194, 6-197, 7-203.
Did not bat S T Finn, J W Dernbach.
Bowling McClenaghan 4-0-29-1; Boult 4-0-40-2; Hira 4-0-42-2; N L McCullum 4-0-49-0; Ellis 3-0-40-2; Franklin 1-0-14-0.
H D Rutherford c Tredwell b Broad 18/1/2/11
M J Guptill c Broad b L J Wright 44/2/3/32
*†B B McCullum c Morgan b Finn 10/0/2/5
L R P Taylor c Bairstow b Finn 13/0/1/14
C Munro b Broad 28/3/0/19
J E C Franklin c Buttler b Broad 8/1/0/5
N L McCullum c Buttler b L J Wright 3/0/0/6
A M Ellis c L J Wright b Finn 4/0/0/5
R M Hira not out 20/1/2/11
T A Boult c S R Patel b Broad 4/0/0/6
M J McClenaghan not out 6/0/1/7
Extras (lb8, w3, nb1): 16
Total (for 9, 20 overs): 174
Fall 1-31, 2-46, 3-77, 4-111, 5-127, 6-128, 7-134, 8-135, 9-156.
Bowling Finn 4-0-39-3; Broad 4-0-24-4; Dernbach 4-0-33-0; Wright 4-0-29-2; Patel 2-0-17-0; Tredwell 2-0-24-0.
Umpires C B Gaffaney and D J Walker (NZ).
TV Umpire G A V Baxter. Match referee: R S Mahanama.
Man of the match Luke Wright (England).