In a week of renewal for cricket's oldest form, the Adelaide Test found room in its tense final act for one more redemptive tale. Few could have expected the fifth coming of Shaun Marsh to produce arguably the innings of match, guiding Australia all but home in a nervy chase for 187 to defeat New Zealand. But as Test cricket has itself proven, the longer the story, the greater the chance of a surprising twist.
On day two, Marsh's nerves had been palpable, much like those of Cricket Australia administrators and their broadcast rights holders over several years of experimentation and discussion to bring this fixture to fruition. His innings ended in the sort of run out seen more often in nightmares than actual matches.
Yet at the moment of greatest import, Marsh was able to summon a tremendous innings, showing evidence of the assiduous work he had done with Chris Rogers to improve his technique against the moving ball. As Rogers had advised him, he would not be able to eradicate edges - he did so twice in his first 10 balls - but tellingly, Marsh's angled bat and softer hands meant these nicks did not go close to carrying.
Such adaptation to the prevailing conditions, in contravention of Marsh's long maintained habits, mirrored the efforts of CA to create the right environment for this match, even if it had to throw several Australian cricket conventions out of the Sir Donald Bradman Pavilion windows to do so. A grassy pitch, prepared by committee, replaced Adelaide's commonly drier deck. The square and outfield were equally lush, helped by the installation of drop-in wickets. Much of this was anathema to traditionalists.
Marsh's composure in these climes was essential to Australia's success. His sound judgement of when to play and when to leave, coupled with good balance to open up scoring zones through the leg side, stood out next to numerous nervier teammates. Notably, the captain Steven Smith played an innings bordering on the disorganised, as both outside and inside edges were struck. A swirling, skied pull shot was survived only because New Zealand's Mitchell Santner made his one mis-step of a fine debut by having his sunglasses on his cap, not over his eyes. Mitchell Marsh played his best innings of the series, but slipped up in trying one too many big blows as Brendon McCullum gamely used his spinners.
Balance is critical in any game, and it is here that CA too can improve on what was rolled out for Adelaide. The pink ball undoubtedly needs to become hardier and thus more adaptable, meaning that pitches do not need to resort to a matte of grass quite so thick as this one. Both Smith and McCullum remarked that they would have preferred a slightly less verdant surface, though they also enjoyed the contrasting skills drawn out by an English-style wicket in sharp contrast to the deader surfaces of Brisbane and Perth.
Equally, they will hope that the flawed interpretation of DRS evidence by the third umpire Nigel Llong will be reviewed in order to ensure such mistakes are not repeated, with greater common sense and circumstantial awareness applied to all decisions. Llong was not aware that Nathan Lyon had walked most of the way off the field upon seeing the evidence on the big screen, and made his decision as though in a bubble. It was a painful irony for New Zealand that it was this incident that had more bearing on the outcome than any vagaries of pitch, ball or lights.
This is not to say that players on both sides emerge from the series without fault. There was a reminder of the work that all must still do in Marsh's dismissal, tied down and nicking off thanks to New Zealand's patience despite his earlier poise. Some may also question Smith's decision to allow a clearly hobbled Starc to bat at the end, as the final two winning runs he slogged through in the company of Peter Siddle were visibly painful. Relief, rather than elation, seemed Australia's dominant emotion at the end of the night.
New Zealand can take plenty of solace in finishing this series far better than they started it. They will be able to point to plenty of positive signs when looking ahead to home Tests against the same opponent in the new year. Trent Boult started the series well and truly out of rhythm but was more or less back in it by the end of Adelaide, Kane Williamson confirmed himself as a player of the highest class, and Ross Taylor re-emerged as a prolific scorer at ease with himself.
But it cannot be denied that Australia deserved to finish the victors, having started the stronger and then found enough compelling passages of play to squeak home here. Josh Hazlewood and Siddle deserved much of the praise for helping to win the match after Starc's injury left the hosts a bowler down - there is plenty of history to demonstrate how rare it is to win Test matches from that position. Likewise CA was able to overcome numerous naysayers and caveats to achieve a major outcome for cricket by having this match take place at all. The world has now seen what is possible.
Refreshingly, numerous other concepts were floated across the week also, from various models for a World Test Championship and the proliferation of more day-night Tests, to talk of converting Tests to leaner four-day affairs, and even renewing genuine cricket investment in the United States. In all it added up to a "Festival of Dangerous Ideas" for cricket. The game as a whole has not seen so much imaginative talk about its future since the dawn of Twenty20; Test matches themselves have not been the subject of this much hype since the invention of the word "hype".
The bottom line of the week was that a crowd of 123,736 and immensely strong television ratings had given Test match cricket the potential for a new dawn of success and therefore longevity. A finish inside three days was a reminder that more needs to be done to refine the concept, but as the often maligned Shaun Marsh demonstrated with an innings Australia desperately needed, there can be no renewal without opportunity.