Test matches (2): England 2, New Zealand 0
One-day internationals (3): England 1, New Zealand 2
Twenty20 internationals (2): England 0, New Zealand 1
New Zealand arrived for what was widely billed as an appetite-whetter ahead of the Ashes with genuine hope of winning a Test in England for the first time in 14 years. Five weeks earlier at Auckland they had been one wicket away from a rare series triumph, only to be denied by Matt Prior and Monty Panesar.
And the first three days at Lord's maintained the pattern of nip-and-tuck, toothand-nail scraps. Yet everything changed in what their captain Brendon McCullum described as "one hour of madness" on the fourth morning. New Zealand slipped to 29 for six, and soon after lunch were all out for 68. It would take them until the limited-overs matches to recover.
Their destroyer was Stuart Broad, who produced the kind of spell - hostile, accurate, full of length - which has sporadically illuminated his career. As his pre-lunch burst of five for 22 turned into Test-best figures of seven for 44, many onlookers felt England were finally fulfilling the script that had apparently been written for them before the First Test at Dunedin in March: self-assertion over the team ranked No. 8 in the world.
For the New Zealanders, the collapse stirred memories of their 45 all out against South Africa at Cape Town in January. And though they avoided another double-figure total in the Second Test at Headingley, scores of 174 and 220 hardly suggested solidity. In all, they managed just 669 runs across their four innings. The inevitable consequence was a 2-0 defeat, their 13th series loss in England to go with a draw in 1949 - when all four Tests were three-day affairs - and wins in 1986 and 1999.
Ross Taylor did provide a hint of his talent with a charming 70 at Leeds, but it was the highest of only three fifties New Zealand managed in both Tests - and Taylor made one of the other two, a fierce 66 at Lord's. He alone ended up averaging over 25. Kane Williamson scored a good-looking 60, but little else, while Hamish Rutherford - flayer of England on debut at Dunedin - failed to pass 42. His opening partner Peter Fulton, who had taken the English bowlers by surprise with twin hundreds at Auckland, totalled a feeble 36. Most crucial of all, perhaps, was the anonymity of McCullum, who was undone by early seam movement, and failed to adapt a game based on fast hands and sharp hand-eye co-ordination; he averaged less than eight.
It was a pity, because New Zealand's bowlers, even in the absence of the injured Daniel Vettori, caused problems to an England top order that struggled to move into a higher gear. At Lord's, the admirable Tim Southee took ten for 108, and he was well supported by Trent Boult, the lively left-arm seamer who finished with eight wickets at 20 apiece and developed something of a hold over Alastair Cook, until a torn side muscle limited him to two overs in the second innings at Headingley and ruled him out of the rest of the tour. With Kevin Pietersen continuing to nurse a knee injury, the New Zealanders could operate in the knowledge that no one was going to take them apart.
But while their support bowling lacked depth - slow left-armer Bruce Martin and seamer Doug Bracewell were especially disappointing - the England attack took it in turns to make waves. At Lord's, Jimmy Anderson began with five wickets to become only the fourth England bowler, after Fred Trueman, Bob Willis and Ian Botham, to take 300 in Tests; Broad then weighed in with his seven. And at Leeds an early burst from Steven Finn was followed by ten wickets for Graeme Swann. Between them, the quartet took 39 wickets at an average of 16. There was no weak link.
If New Zealand were chastened, and England a little flattered, by the 170-run margin in the First Test, worse was to follow at Leeds, where the shortfall was 247 - a record between the sides - and that after rain had washed out the first day and almost obliterated the fifth. Honest as ever, McCullum conceded that England had "flexed their muscles". They also had the satisfaction of seeing Joe Root become the first Yorkshireman to score his maiden Test century at Headingley - and in the county's 150th anniversary year, too.
It was just a shame the crowds were disappointing, leaving Yorkshire's new chief executive Mark Arthur to lament the number of international venues in England. With the seven non-London grounds left to fight it out for four Tests a summer - and occasionally three - Arthur regretted that ticket prices had been inflated for the less attractive fixtures in an attempt to recoup staging fees.
The bad spring weather did not help. Root's composed hundred would prove significant not only for him, but also for Nick Compton. Having performed so well in New Zealand, Compton seemed on the verge of establishing an England career in which the phrase "grandson of Denis" would have to wait until at least the second paragraph. He had spoken of wanting to give the bowlers nothing, which was sensible enough. Yet in the second innings at Headingley a combination of New Zealand's accuracy and the tantalising prize of a maiden Ashes series rendered him all but strokeless. He later denied the pressure had got to him, but seven runs in 85 minutes gave him a total of 54 in six innings since back-to-back hundreds at Dunedin and Wellington. Not long after, Root was announced as Cook's opening partner for the Ashes.
Jonathan Trott's laboured progress towards 11 in 69 balls on the third evening at Leeds was symptomatic of England's excessive caution, though he did speed next morning. And so was Cook's decision not to enforce the follow on, though he did at least lead well with the bat in scoring his 25th Test hundred, thus extending his own England record.
But the fact that he eventually set New Zealand a target of 468 - a full 50 more than any side had made to win in the fourth innings of a Test - took the philosophy of grinding the opposition into the dust to almost absurd lengths, particularly given the uncertain nature of the weather. Cook's rationale was that England had worked hard to establish the ascendancy in what effectively amounted to a five-Test series. They were not, he reasoned, about to give New Zealand a sniff now.
It was just as well, then, that England eventually managed to dodge the showers, with Swann starring on a pitch worn by left-armers' footmarks. Yet there was a revealing moment before play on the final day when team director Andy Flower was seen haranguing the groundstaff over the time they were taking to remove the covers. "I don't think I should be out there doing the officials' job," Flower tetchily told BBC Radio's Test Match Special. The party line was that the ends justified the means: England had won. And Cook could now boast three victories and a draw in his first four series in charge, including his stint as stand-in for Andrew Strauss in Bangladesh early in 2010.
Thereafter, things picked up for the New Zealanders, and one of the most glorious sights of the ensuing one-day series, which they deservedly won 2-1, was the batting of Martin Guptill. His unbeaten 27 at Hamilton in February, where he had inspired New Zealand to victory in a one-dayer after returning to the middle with a hamstring injury, had demonstrated his guts. Now he showed his class. Guptill's undefeated 103 at Lord's was a model in how to pace a run-chase and, remarkably in view of what followed, only his third century in 70 one-day internationals. Two days later at Southampton, Guptill added a fourth - a stunning 189 - after England had dropped him on 13 for the second match in a row. It equalled Viv Richards's celebrated effort at Old Trafford in 1984 as the highest individual one-day score against England.
That the teams then played two Twenty20 games after the Champions Trophy - in which the New Zealanders were disappointed not to have reached the semi-finals - was an absurdity, like going back to the same restaurant a month later just for the pudding. In the circumstances, Surrey were to be congratulated on attracting a sellout crowd to The Oval for the first of two matches in three days (the second was rained off), and they were rewarded with a textbook Twenty20 as England narrowly failed to chase down 202.
But victory in the two limited-overs series told us little we didn't already know about the New Zealand team. And for the umpteenth time in recent years, they were left bemoaning their lack of quality in the five-day game.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Kent v New Zealanders at Canterbury, Jun 22, 2013