Given the fine line England have trodden between success and failure over the last few months, during their elongated head-to-head with New Zealand, they wrapped up the series with deceptive ease on the fourth day at Trent Bridge
Given the fine line England have trodden between success and failure over the last few months, during their elongated head-to-head with New Zealand, they wrapped up the series with deceptive ease on the fourth day at Trent Bridge. Ryan Sidebottom, on his home ground, responded to a slightly below-par display on the previous two days with a six-wicket haul to seal an innings-and-nine-run victory after just an hour's play.
Sidebottom has been a frustrated, and often angry, participant during this Test as he watched James Anderson and Stuart Broad claim the bowling honours. He hasn't quite been at full pace - the back spasm on the first day may have played a part - but, with conditions better for batting than at any stage during the game, Sidebottom showed why he has taken on the mantle of England's premier bowler.
Gareth Hopkins fought hard on his debut in both innings, showing a better technique than many of the top order against the moving ball. But he was the first to depart when Sidebottom found his outside edge with one pushed across the batsman. In his next over, Sidebottom removed the last major obstacle to a swift finish for England, when Daniel Vettori lofted a skewed drive to Kevin Pietersen at point. From then on it was only a matter of time.
The lower-order showed little desire to hang around as they flayed at Sidebottom's probing line. Kyle Mills edged to Andrew Strauss at first slip, then Iain O'Brien was smartly taken by Paul Collingwood at second slip, diving sharply to his left. Collingwood's batting is in a slump, his bowling is hindered by a sore shoulder, but he can still catch.
Jacob Oram offered the lone resistance, finally coming out of his shell and showing what a threat he will be in the forthcoming one-dayers. Instead of ducking the short ball on a slow pitch he took it on, launching a couple of huge sixes over deep midwicket, once off Broad and then a repeat off Anderson.
He reached an entertaining half-century off 39 balls, but in the process exposed Chris Martin to four balls of Anderson's over. It took just one, a thick edge to second slip where Collingwood pouched another neat catch. Anderson deserved to wrap up the match, claiming his ninth wicket, after putting England in such a strong position with his memorable burst on Friday.
Anderson also helped spark England's resurgence in New Zealand, when he took a five-wicket haul in Wellington, as the team recovered from their embarrassments in Hamilton. The bowling attack was changed, freshened up by youth, and in four of the last five Tests they have responded for Michael Vaughan. There is a long way to go for this England team, and some tough questions still to answer, but they at least have the winning feeling to build on ahead of greater challenges.