Matt Henry, Neil Wagner and Ajaz Patel have bowled New Zealand to the brink of a stunning test series win over England. Source / Spark Sport
The simple description is this: New Zealand took just one ball to finish England’s innings at 122, and then spent 65 more chasing down the 38 runs required for an eight-wicket victory.
The more colourful, interpretative version is that this superb New Zealand side put an exclamation point on three previous days of dominance at Edgbaston, dismissing those sceptics who thought they had back-doored their way into next week’s World Test Championship final, and moved back to No 1 in the world test rankings.
Getting to 38 was never in doubt but that doesn’t mean it was easy. James Anderson and Stuart Broad would have watched on mortified at the performance of their batsmen and took it out on New Zealand. The ball swung prodigiously at high pace, but it was no more than a raging against the dying of this match’s light.
Yes, they lost Devon Conway (three) and Will Young (eight) along the way, but if you’re going to pick a time to fail, chasing 38 is not a bad time to choose. To watch Conway in the players’ enclosure soon after, studying the footage of his dismissal alongside coach Gary Stead was to watch a player not satisfied with a subpar performance, even when it comes without consequence.
Young was unlucky to drag Olly Stone back onto his stumps with just five needed. He won’t play next week but he will get further opportunities down the track.
When stand-in skipper Tom Latham (23 not out) went to six, he became just the ninth New Zealander to reach 4000 test runs, though you can guarantee it would have registered very low on his excitement-ometer. Far more satisfying would have been hitting the winning runs, dabbing to the third man boundary.
The emphatic victory sealed just the third test series victory against England away, following a 1-0 win in 1986 and a dramatic 2-1 win in 1999.
With the greatest respect, this Black Caps side has little in common with its forbears other than this achievement.
The 1986 team had an attack that was famously described by Graham Gooch as like facing the World XI at one end (Sir Richard Hadlee) and the Ilford Seconds at the other.
While the 1999 team was more balanced, they were playing an England team of such low standing that their supporters, in classic gallows humour, had taken to chanting “We’re the worst team in the world”, whenever they lost – which was often.
This England side is not great, but it does contain a formidable attack led by the ageless Anderson and Broad and counts captain Joe Root – he of 8700 test runs – among their number.
Yet this New Zealand team toyed with them at Lord’s – where a day lost to rain cost them a chance to press home their considerable advantage – and destroyed them at Edgbaston.
They did that despite making six changes between tests in order to rest players ahead of the WTC final at Southampton.
A test victory away from home against a world cricket powerhouse without the likes of Kane Williamson, BJ Watling and Tim Southee would have seemed fanciful not many moons ago, but here it felt strangely normal.
Now they move to the South Coast and the principal assignment in this mini-tour to England – the WTC final against India.
Their opponents have spent this week at the Ageas Bowl, playing an intra-squad game, but they would have had a weather-eye on this match and if they were not impressed, then they are tough judges.
The match will be marketed to an extent as a David v Goliath match up given India’s vast resources and cricketing wealth.
On this occasion, however, David is armed with more than a slingshot.