'400 might well be the new 300' - McMillan
Craig McMillan knows a little bit about stratospheric one-day performances but, after seeing more than 760 runs scored in 96 overs at The Oval on Friday night, New Zealand's batting coach was unwilling to predict how much further teams could go.
It is more than eight years since McMillan played a key role in New Zealand overhauling totals of 336 and 346 against Australia in consecutive matches - still two of the five highest successful chases in the format. McMillan's 67-ball hundred in the third ODI was the fastest by a New Zealander until Corey Anderson and Jesse Ryder both breezed past the mark at the start of 2014.
That final match in Hamilton in 2007 saw 696 runs scored, albeit within the bijou dimensions of Seddon Park, and was at the time the second-highest match aggregate in history. It has since been pushed down to 10th, with six of the new entries coming in the last two years. Changes to the ODI playing regulations recommended by the ICC cricket committee may shift the balance once again but McMillan's suggestion that "400 might well be the new 300" no longer seems outlandish.
"I wouldn't like to put framework on it, I don't know," McMillan said when asked about the expansion of batting horizons. "T20 cricket has changed the perception of one-day cricket and what is possible and what's not. I would think it's pretty hard to beat 400 against quality opposition but with some of the grounds you play on, where the boundaries aren't big and you play on good, true surfaces, anything's possible, really."
"These two sides, we've got two attacking batting line-ups that are going pretty hard at one another. I think with the pitches we're going to face in the remaining three matches, 400 might well be the new 300. It's also T20 cricket coming to the fore, batsmen play with no fear so chasing seven, eight an over is not a big deal anymore."
After two matches in favourable batting conditions, this series is already beginning to resemble a subcontinental run fest, where bowlers are little more than fodder. At Edgbaston, New Zealand took a wicket with the first ball of the match but ended up conceding 408; this time, Steven Finn got through a maiden before the fireworks began. Even with a target off 399 to back them up, New Zealand's attack only just held out.
A couple of winters ago, India and Australia gave it some relentless pongo during a series that looked to have redefined the game - particularly in the wake of the rule changes that brought such attacking cricket at the World Cup. Then, the overall run rate was 6.64 over six matches (one of which was a no result due to rain); currently, England and New Zealand are trading blows at a rate of 7.72 runs per over.
New Zealand's 398 for 5 at The Oval was the second-highest total in their ODI history - and their best against a fellow Test nation - but there was an ominous sense of control about the way the runs came. Of the top four, only Brendon McCullum scored at significantly more than a run a ball in the first 35 overs, with Ross Taylor opening up towards the end for an unbeaten 119 off 96 and Grant Elliott and Luke Ronchi providing further impetus lower down.
Underpinning it all was solid partnership-building, with 50-plus scores for each of the first four wickets - their smallest was 45 for the fifth - leaving McMillan very satisfied.
"It was a very professional batting effort, to have partnerships all the way through really set the platform for that big total," McMillan said. "McCullum and Guptill probably set the tone, then the partnership between Kane and Ross set the platform and it allowed guys like Elliott and Ronchi to come in and play their cameos. In many ways it was close to the perfect batting performance."
English conditions could once be relied on to even the contest between batmen and bowlers, even with the white ball, but the absence of swing so far has neutered a strength of both attacks. Another generous batting surface is expected at the Ageas Bowl, a ground on which New Zealand cracked 359 for 3 in 2013. Records may continue to tumble.
"It's been a difficult series for the bowlers so far, I think they're looking forward to a pitch with a little bit more help at some stage," McMillan said. "But it is something we need to keep working on, I think we made improvements from Edgbaston. England came very hard at us last night, harder than at Edgbaston but the boys got the job done.
"There's very little help, you usually see with the new balls a little bit of swing. That's one of the challenges for them at the moment, when the ball doe\sn't do anything, what's your gameplan? You have to be able to adjust and be flexible. It's a continual discussion among the bowling group, with Dimi Mascarenhas as well. I think we've seen from the first two games it's going to be a tough series for the bowlers."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick