Now the A word can be spoken. Not willy-nilly, harum-scarum, it must be understood, because there is a Champions Trophy afoot before all that, but with proper and sensible anticipation.
England will finish their final Test before 10 consecutive Ashes matches (there, it is said) having dismantled New Zealand. In many ways, it has been ideal preparation.
They batted on and on and on some more on the fourth day of the second Test and then laid waste once more to the tourists' second innings. The Investec series had long since been decided and the only questions were whether England could win before rain returned to bookend the match and by how many.
New Zealand have been steamrollered in the past few days, the authority and resilience they displayed for three and three-quarter Test matches a hazy memory. Since imploding at Lord's nine days ago when they were bowled out for 68 they have simply never recovered.
For all England's caution their opponents have been outplayed and outsmarted in Leeds as if the effort of keeping up for as long as they did had eventually sapped them. There was a modicum of resistance late in the afternoon, occasionally what passed for a flourish, but with a target of 468 to win they were doing little more than playing for time.
They finished the day on 158 for 6 when bad light intervened, still 309 runs behind, and at least live to fight another day. Ross Taylor made a handsomely appointed 70 but when he became Graeme Swann's fourth victim, driving loosely, that was essentially that.
If they did not help themselves yet again there were a couple of brutal deliveries, one bowled by Stuart Broad, the other, even more menacing, by Steve Finn which reared at the batsmen and had to be played. At this pace, with this venom, Finn will give Australia a fearful working over later in the summer.
England have dominated and, although 329 runs were scored from 90.4 overs in all, there was not much discernible sense of urgency or ambition. They went at a much greater lick in the morning than they had on the previous afternoon but then that was all that should have been expected.
Alastair Cook scored his 25th Test hundred and his seventh in only 11 matches as captain, Jonathan Trott failed to reach his 10th. The scoring rate, wretchedly low when the ground was heaving on Sunday, increased markedly now it was markedly emptier.
The tourists, still short of Trent Boult because of a side strain, appeared to lose will in the field. For the first time in weeks they gave Cook width outside off stump and the chance to clip off his hips, two of his more favoured scoring options.
It was the second-fastest of Cook's hundreds. The only quicker one was in Dhaka against Bangladesh in early 2011. This was his first at Headingley and the 21st ground on which he has made a hundred. His second-wicket partnership with Trott was worth 134 when he perished miscuing a drive to mid-off.
Trott was much more animated as England batted for a declaration and unfurled a selection of cover drives as well as his more familiar leg-side forcing shots. The real zest, however, was supplied by the pair from whom it came in the first innings, Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.
What a breath of fresh air Root is, relishing every moment of being a Test batsman and showing it. Given licence to throw the bat he used it and produced a delightful ramp-cum-scoop shot against the left-arm seam of Neil Wagner, which takes speed of movement as well as of thought.
Bairstow joined in the fun after Ian Bell, essaying a slog sweep, finished an eminently forgettable series with the bat. If Bell is not saving something special for Australia his Test career will be in big trouble before the year is out.
At long last, England declared, leaving New Zealand a mission which would require them to make 50 runs more than has ever been scored in the fourth innings to win a Test match. It was also 19 runs more than New Zealand had made in three complete innings previously in the series.
Therefore, it was in the realms of improbable. Although Cook will no doubt say today that his first responsibility had to be to protect England's lead in the series by not giving their opponents much more than a sniff, there will be times when he simply has to be bolder for the benefit of the team and of the game at large.
New Zealand soon made a mess of their nominal pursuit. Peter Fulton seemed to have turned a corner as an international batsman when he scored twin hundreds in Auckland in March, his first and second in Tests. The corner he turned seems to have led down a blind alley and he was undone by a steeply lifting ball from Broad which, in the event, he did well to prod to Bell in the gully.
Swann took his first wicket when he had Kane Williamson lbw going across his stumps, a review not saving him, and his second when Hamish Rutherford offered a catch off bat and pad to Root at short leg.
A neat, resolute partnership between Taylor and Dean Brownlie delayed England. But Finn found some extra venom to disturb Brownlie, who also fended to gully and that immediately opened an end again.
Swann soon found Martin Guptill's edge and when he tricked Taylor he had eight wickets in the match, eight more than he had previously taken in a Test at Headingley. He bowled unchanged from the Kirkstall Lane End and if the weather allows it he will presumably do so again today.
Should the predicted rain prevent England from finishing the job they can have few groans. New Zealand were ready to fold long before they were invited to bat again. Cook will remember that come you know what.
Timeline: How the fourth day unfolded
Century: Cook England 141-1
Cook continues to sail through his innings, bringing up his 25th Test ton, stretching England's lead to 320 runs. Another stellar batting performance from the captain.
Wickets: England 214-3
Out of nowhere, New Zealand strike with two wickets from Williamson. Cook's stint ends on 130, and Bell makes just six.
Wickets: England 268-5
Another two wickets for the tourists as Wagner makes England sweat just a little. Trott departs on 76 and Root on 28. Declaration soon.
England 287-5 declared
He took his time, but Cook bangs on the window and waves his players in. New Zealand left needing a mammoth 468 to win, but some feel Cook should have declared earlier.
Wkt: Fulton c Bell b Broad 5. New Zealand 21-1
Superb bowling from England's seamers leads to Broad striking early, with Fulton caught by Bell.
Wickets: New Zealand 65-3
Swann brings spin into the attack, and is soon rewarded by taking the key wickets of Williamson for lbw and Rutherford, caught by Root.
Fifty: Taylor, NZ 124-3
New Zealand are resilient and, despite a big lbw appeal from England, Taylor moves on to his fifty, frustrating the hosts and preventing the early finish they desired.
Wkt: Brownlie c Bell b Finn 25. New Zealand 144-4
England make a breakthrough with the wicket of Brownlie, who gives Bell a catch from Finn.
Bad light stops play. NZ 158-6.
Bad light finishes proceedings, with England firmly in control. But rain forecast for today could still yet save the Kiwis, who need 310.
Second Test (fourth day of five): New Zealand, with foursecond-innings wickets in hand, require 310 runs to beat England; England won toss
England: First Innings 354 (Root 104, Bairstow 64, Boult 5-57)
New Zealand: First Innings 174 (Swann 4-42)
England: Second Innings (Overnight 116-1)
*A N Cook c Southee b Williamson 130, 190 balls 0 sixes 18 fours
I J L Trott c McCullum b Wagner 76, 164 balls 0 sixes 8 fours
I R Bell c Guptill b Williamson 6, 8 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
J E Root c Guptill b Wagner 28, 22 balls 0 sixes 4 fours
J M Bairstow not out 26, 22 balls 1 sixes 2 fours
†M J Prior not out 4, 5 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
Extras (b8 lb1 w1) 10
Total (for 5 dec, 76 overs) 287
Fall 1-72, 2-206, 3-214, 4-249, 5-268.
Did not bat S C J Broad, G P Swann, S T Finn, J M Anderson.
Bowling TA Boult: 2-1-2-0 (one spell), T G Southee: 15-4-51-0 (4-1-19-0; 3-1-6-0; 6-2-17-0; 2-0-9-0), N Wagner: 17-3-67-2 (7-2-28-0; 2-0-3-0; 2-0-9-0; 6-1-27-2), K S Williamson: 24-4-68-3 (14-4-25-1; 1-0-7-0; 9-0-36-2), D A J Bracewell: 13-3-49-0 (1wd) (6-3-12-0; 7-0-37-0), M J Guptill: 5-0-41-0 (one spell)
New Zealand: Second Innings
P G Fulton c Bell b Broad 5, 28 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
H D Rutherford c Root b Swann 42, 51 balls 0 sixes 6 fours
K S Williamson lbw b Swann 3, 23 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
L R P L Taylor b Swann 70, 121 balls 0 sixes 9 fours
D G Brownlie c Bell b Finn 25, 64 balls 0 sixes 2 fours
M J Guptill c Trott b Swann 3, 22 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
*†B B McCullum not out 0, 10 balls 0 sixes 0 fours
T G Southee not out 4, 9 balls 0 sixes 1 fours
Extras (lb6) 6
Total (for 6, 54.4 overs) 158
Fall 1-21, 2-40, 3-65, 4-144, 5-153, 6-154.
To bat D A J Bracewell, N Wagner, T A Boult.
Bowling J M Anderson: 11-4-28-0 (6-4-7-0; 5-0-21-0), S C J Broad: 8-2-19-1 (6-1-18-1; 2-1-1-0), G P Swann: 21.4-7-61-4 (one spell), S T Finn: 11-1-43-1 (5-1-20-0; 6-0-23-1), J E Root: 3-2-1-0 (2-1-1-0; 1-1-0-0)
Day Four England: A N Cook: 100 off 152 balls (15 fours), 150 runs in 49.2 overs, I J L Trott: 50 off 126 balls (6 fours), 200 runs in 60.2 overs, Lunch: 249-3 in 70 overs (I J L Trott 76, J E Root 20), 250 runs in 71.1 overs, Innings: 287-5 in 76 overs (J M Bairstow 26, M J Prior 4). New Zealand: 50 runs in 18.1 overs, Tea: 68-3 in 22 overs (L R P L Taylor 9, D G Brownlie 3), 100 runs in 28.2 overs, Taylor: 50 off 78 balls (6 fours), 150 runs in 48 overs Close: 158-6 in 54.4 overs (B B McCullum 0, T G Southee 4)
Umpires S J Davis (Australia) and M Erasmus (South Africa).
TV umpire Aleem Dar (Pakistan).
Match referee D C Boon (Australia).
25 Alastair Cook hit his 25th Test century, seventh as captain.
1948 The last time a second-innings run chase of more than 400 at Headingley was successful.
2 Swann needs just two more wickets for his third-ever 10-wicket haul.
99 Balls between fall of England's third wicket and Cook's declaration.
35 James Anderson needs a dismissal to stretch his run to 35 straight wicket-taking home innings (since 2009).
World Cup back home for 2019
England has been confirmed as the host country for the 2019 Cricket World Cup, the England and Wales Cricket Board and International Cricket Council has announced.
The 10 venues are yet to be revealed. England hosted the first World Cup in 1975 and also staged the tournament in 1979, 1983 and 1999.Reuse content