Perfect days are rare in international cricket, but New Zealand's first as host of day-night Test cricket was as close as they come. Trent Boult and Tim Southee, New Zealand's best Test bowlers, first combined to blow away England for 58, their sixth-lowest Test score. Then Kane Williamson, their best Test batsman, ensured they capitalised with a delectable, unbeaten 91 that stretched New Zealand's lead to 117.
It all began under mostly cloudless skies in Auckland, with the pink ball. In any conditions, facing swing bowling has its challenges. Against a swing bowler with pace, accuracy and mastery over his craft, that task gets exponentially harder. Boult is usually in the mid-130kmph range, but his nagging precision gives batsmen lesser time to react. He is also a smart bowler, often using the width of the crease to create angles that trouble the batsmen. All of that was on show as he finished with 6 for 32, his best Test returns.
At the other end, Southee provided ample support, using his own modus operandi - subtle changes in line, length, pace and movement - to nip out figures of 4 for 25. New Zealand didn't require any other bowler, and it was only because of No. 9 Craig Overton's freewheeling 25-ball 33 that England didn't fall to their lowest total ever - 45 all out in 1887.
First to go was Alastair Cook. Boult, using the width of the crease and enough lateral movement, found Cook's outside edge, the catch taken comfortably at second slip. Then, Joe Root, having moved to No. 3 after leaving James Vince out after a sub-par Ashes, was bowled through a massive gap between bat and pad. Boult's late movement had accounted for England's best Test batsmen. With the ball still moving, in the air and off the pitch, against two bowlers at the top of their game, did the rest even have a chance?
Dawid Malan was next, similarly undone by Boult's angle and late away swing, the only difference being a thinner edge that was taken by the wicketkeeper BJ Watling, diving in front of first slip. Ben Stokes, returning to Tests after six months as a specialist batsman amid concerns around his workload, was intent on seeing Boult's spell out.
Off his eighth delivery, Boult went wide of the crease. Stokes, aware of the angle that dismissed Cook and Malan, shaped to leave, but Boult had brought this one back into the left-hander to hit the off stump. Boult would also get Chris Woakes, bowled through the gate, and James Anderson, merely tapping a short delivery to point.
Bowling in partnerships has always been New Zealand's strength in the last few years. Southee, too, found sufficient but not exaggerated movement. His first wicket was Mark Stoneman, edging to the keeper, off an outswinger. His third wicket was Moeen Ali, bowled through the gate, off an inswinger. In between was Jonny Bairstow, chipping a catch back to the bowler.
His fourth wicket though was down to the fielding, another of New Zealand's assets. Stuart Broad's leaden-footed drive seemed set for the third-man boundary, but Williamson flew to his left from gully, both feet off the ground, and clung on to the catch. Broad's wry smile and aghast expression summed up the afternoon for England. Their innings had lasted as long as a Twenty20 innings.
In reply, James Anderson gave England some hope when he had Jeet Raval caught behind off an outswinger that moved away appreciably. Swing and seam ceased thereafter. Tom Latham and Williamson first got through the opening spells of each of England's fast bowlers, and the shackles were released when Moeen Ali was brought on.
In his first over, the 21st of the innings, Williamson lofted Moeen over long-on for six and then drilled him straight for four two balls later. While Latham was watchful for the entirety of his 112-ball 26, his innings ended in loose fashion, with a tame catch to square leg - Broad's 400th Test wicket. Williamson, meanwhile, kept growing in confidence.
Prior to the dinner break, he struck several languid drives through the covers, waiting for bowlers to err in line. When they did, he picked them off square on the leg side. His scoring rate deteriorated slightly after the break, but not the quality of his defensive technique or his shot selection. Even though the ball began to seam under lights, Williamson was untroubled, as New Zealand assumed complete control.