At Nottingham, June 5, 6, 7, 8. England won by an innings and nine runs. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: G. J. Hopkins.
England wrapped up the series 2-0 with an ultimately comfortable win of the sort expected all summer against seemingly modest opposition. But for bad weather, the match could have ended in three days. Victory looked anything but assured, however, just after lunch on the first day, when they lost three wickets in as many overs and were struggling at 86 for five. A match-turning stand between Pietersen and Ambrose reclaimed the initiative, then a superb spell from Anderson made sure it was not relinquished.
England were unchanged for the fifth Test running, equalling their record of 1884-85, when the same eleven did duty throughout a tour of Australia. This was not really an indication of great strength and solidity: it owed more to injuries and loss of form in others than sustained excellence by those in the team. New Zealand were forced into one alteration: a back niggle meant McCullum played solely as a batsman, giving Gareth Hopkins a long-awaited chance behind the stumps, while James Marshall dropped out. More frequent changes concerned the balls, which regularly went out of shape at around 20 overs. The players thought the 2008 batch was going soft early on, and that things returned to normal when they got hold of a used ball from the previous year. Darrell Hair, officiating in his second (and, as it turned out, last) Test after the ball-tampering row at The Oval in 2006, could probably have done without the fuss, but handled it well, smiling ruefully as the cameras zoomed in yet again on him peering quizzically at a misshapen sphere. Hair, who had stood in 77 previous matches, and Steve Bucknor, with 123, were the most experienced pair of umpires ever in a Test, their combined total of 200 beating the 191 of Bucknor (114) and Rudi Koertzen (77) before the Adelaide Test of the 2006-07 Ashes.
Whichever ball was being used swung early on. Play started on time despite Nottingham having absorbed a month's rain the previous week, one factor which led to Vettori fielding first. Some locals felt the futuristic new Bridgford Road stand, with its perky roof pointing at the flyswatter-shaped floodlights, had helped the increase in swing. Cook soon fell to the energetic Mills, whose next ball zipped past a surprised Vaughan. He settled with three fours in a Martin over (two textbook cover-drives and one back-foot force past the bowler) but added only one more before trying another good-looking drive: the persistent O'Brien inveigled the ball through the gate to knock back the off stump.
The first ball-change coincided with England's fifty, and the score advanced to 84 for two by lunch. But slow eaters missed the postprandial shocks, when wickets fell to the last ball of each of the next three overs. Strauss flashed a simple chance to first slip, Bell played across a straight one, then Collingwood gave a harder catch to the diving Taylor at slip.
At Wellington in March, Ambrose had put England on the road to victory in a sixthwicket stand of 164 with Collingwood: now his partnership of 161 with Pietersen did likewise. Pietersen, tall and commanding, batted within himself at first, while Ambrose, short and sturdy, cut well as the bowlers tended to pitch too short - including Vettori, whose 17 overs on the first day did not include a single maiden. Gradually the batsmen took command. Pietersen's first fifty contained only four fours, but his second included eight, the pick a cover-drive off Martin and a straight-drive that whistled back past Mills. His 12th Test century was his first on his old home ground. England survived deep into the final session, separated only by the new ball, which Pietersen nicked firm-footedly to give Hopkins a distinguished first Test catch. The second followed four overs later, when Ambrose's 222-minute innings ended with a thin edge.
New Zealand might have wrapped things up quickly next morning had McCullum, at second slip, held on to a regulation chance from Broad off Martin, but it bobbled out. Broad went confidently to his first Test fifty, adding 76 with Anderson to stretch the innings past lunch. Especially impressive when he went back and forced through the covers, Broad hit ten fours, and England's 364 - Trent Bridge's highest total of the season to date, by a margin of 85 - was imposing on a good pitch lacking a little pace.
The score looked even better when Anderson immediately found his rhythm from the Radcliffe Road End. Redmond survived a caught-behind appeal off his first ball, but two deliveries later had no answer to one angled towards leg stump then swinging away to hit off as the batsman shaped to play it through midwicket. And in Anderson's third over, an even bigger fish fell for the same lure: McCullum tried a similar shot to a similar ball and lost his off stump too. How narrowly escaped when he popped Collingwood up just short of cover, but a change of end and a change of ball seemed to suit Anderson even more. In his second over after tea, Taylor squirted an attempted drive into the gully, then Flynn survived one confident lbw appeal from his second ball only to get an even straighter one next up. How followed four overs later, offering a disappointingly limp bat to an outswinger after two hours. Just before bad light ended play for the day, Anderson went round the wicket to Oram and moved one away enough to take the edge.
At stumps he had all six wickets for 42 - his best Test figures, to follow his batting best earlier in the day - and overnight the talk was of whether he could "do a Laker" and take all ten. However, Anderson could not quite recapture the magic next day, when there was no play before lunch. His only further victim was the adhesive Hopkins, last out as the final three wickets went without addition, Broad's double strike removing Mills and O'Brien in three balls.
The main destroyer in the follow-on was Sidebottom, who had seemed out of sorts in the first innings, not helped by a back spasm which kept him off the field for a time. Redmond again looked inadequate then, after an hour, How edged to third slip as Sidebottom scrambled the seam to stop the ball swinging too much (he was lucky not to fall foul of the referee after giving How a snarling send-off). Taylor wafted across Broad's slower ball, but thoughts of a three-day finish were ended by a mature display from McCullum, who held his attacking instincts in check for three hours, and Flynn, a left-hander more Border than Fleming, who gritted his remaining teeth for two and a half. McCullum finally dragged Anderson into his stumps, and to general disappointment Flynn nibbled at a wide ball one short of a maiden Test fifty.
With their main batsmen gone New Zealand, still trailing by 64 overnight, needed a meteorological miracle to survive. Instead, they got the best weather of the match. A surprisingly big crowd watched the local hero lead the way as the last five wickets tumbled in 41 balls. Sidebottom finished with six for 67, taking his tally in six Tests against New Zealand in 2008 to 41. The only resistance came from Oram, who cheerfully pulled Broad for six then, with the last man in, did likewise to Anderson. Oram tried again next ball, but good fielding from Bell on the square-leg boundary kept him down to a single; that completed his fifty but exposed the walking wicket that is Martin. Anderson needed just one ball to claim his ninth victim of the match.
Man of the Match: J. M. Anderson.
Men of the Series: England - A. J. Strauss; New Zealand - D. L. Vettori