David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
We will never be as big as the All Blacks, smiled Brendon McCullum. There is a limit even to his courageous ambition. But if the enterprising approach that brought New Zealand a share of the Test spoils against England inspires just one or two more talented sportsmen to give themselves to a life in cricket…wise words indeed from a Test captain whose brazen attacking approach has dared to challenge a century of tradition.
Asking McCullum about the All Blacks has more relevance than first appears. He was such a good schoolboy fly half that he once kept Dan Carter out of a South Island schools side. That is Dan Carter in case you were not concentrating. For those not versed in rugby union, as far as New Zealand is concerned that would be a bigger deal than edging a football selection on the wing ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo.
McCullum does not like to go there. He respects talent. In the game he eventually chose ahead of rugby, he has proved that he draws adventure from talent. In addition, he also plays matches in a wonderful spirit believing that any other approach is counter-productive in New Zealand culture. The odd burst of exasperation from a fast bowler excepted perhaps.
Forgive the personal story but after an ill-timed walking holiday in France, which coincided with the much-celebrated Lord's Test, my 86-year-old father offered this: "I've not seen anything like it for years," he said. "Not just the attacking cricket - but the good spirit. That McCullum…." On the strength of it, he has decided to keep on his Sky subscription for the Ashes when he is wise enough to expect a slightly different mood.
"We will never get close to rugby," said McCullum. "Rugby is in our blood. That's just the way we are. But cricket: we were able to captivate our nation in the World Cup and performances like this have got to help. If the way we play allows one or two extra talents in our country coming through then that is good. "
An appearance in the World Cup final and now seven unbeaten Test series: these are considerable gains. England have observed them, looked deep into their soul and been perplexed by how much they wish to emulate them. Nobody wants the series to end - and that is even though the Ashes lie ahead. The Aussies, naturally, will say that is because only pain lies in wait.
This was New Zealand's first win in England since 1999 when successive victories at Lord's and The Oval (London being about the only place they could attract a crowd) meant they took the series. It was achieved in what McCullum called "an Invercargill wind". Invercargill is actually New Zealand's second windiest city after Wellington, but it cuts through more layers of clothing and, anyway, Kiwis like to contend that Wellington is arty first, windy second.
"I'm not sure anyone can cope with those conditions; it asked different questions of you," McCullum said. "Sometimes the wind can assist you - the spinners can get a bit of drift - but we just got on with it. We said when we arrived here that it was not going to be the most pleasing of conditions we were going to be confronted with and we had a task to achieve."
It was a wind which blew cheap umbrellas inside out, made the floodlights sway - one pylon on the rugby ground was doing a passable impression of the Dance of the Seven Veils which was somewhat disturbing - and, it more importantly dried out the pitch. New Zealand's offspin pair, Mark Craig and Kane Williamson, shared figures of 6 for 88.
Talk of adventurous cricket, while relevant in consideration of the series, disguises the truth of what actually occurred on the final day. Against two offspinners, England, replete with left-handers, blocked feebly, the feeling from their bones telling them they would not succeed. On this evidence, even Nathan Lyon cold be a matchwinner for Australia in the Ashes. England, meanwhile, doubt Moeen Ali and have no proven replacement.
Craig is unsung; Williamson rarely bowls these days, his effectiveness hampered perhaps by scrutiny of his action. By the time England tried to put Craig under any pressure - a tactic that had succeeded at Lord's, it was too late. As for Williamson, McCullum summoned him three times and three times he quickly took a wicket.
Fifteen of his 27 Test wickets have come against England at an average of 16. When it happened the first time just before lunch - Ben Stokes cutting a quicker, wide one - it could be presented as McCullum's tactical acumen. By the third time, it looked so easy that tactics did not come into it.
If you want to beat the enemy, first confuse them. The kind assessment when Joe Root, England's sharpest tactical mind, reflected on a target of 454 to win, with still 411 needed on the final day, and vacuously pronounced that England still believed they could win it was that he was merely voicing the mindless marketing-driven optimism that was expected in a media conference.
The critical assessment is that glibness is a not a good look, that everybody knows when they are being played, and that it was patently obvious that England's only choice was to bat out time. England's cricket public wants enterprise, but it wants honesty more. Root, more capable than most of delivering it, should take note.
By the time that Root came out to bat, dancing to the crease as if he had downed 100 espressos, England had managed 18 from 15 overs. A Yorkshireman in Row Z was rumoured to be checking the Trades Description Act. Then Root fell second ball for nought: at least he drilled his shot fiercely to short leg where it stuck in Tom Latham's chest; Ian Bell, the one-time Ashes hero who has become the mouse of England's batting order, obligingly popped his in the same direction. At 62 for 4, and the day barely an hour old, the outcome was pretty inevitable.
This has been a successful Test for Yorkshire - attendances up around 20% on New Zealand's visit two years ago, credit shared equally perhaps between a county reconnecting with its public and the pull of McCullum's tourists. But less than 4,000 trooped out on the final day and precious few of those would have anticipated a world-record run chase.
The force, as long as the rain held off, lay with McCullum's New Zealand. "We have maintained the belief that this is how we give ourselves the greatest chance in Test cricket," he said. "You have to remain true to your beliefs when you are under pressure.
"One-nil down in a two-Test series, we knew we had to get a result, the guys bought into it and we played a really attacking brand of cricket. The guys bought into it. We are really proud of the record we have built up and the fact that everyone is buying into what we are trying to achieve."
His life philosophy was reminiscent of Ian Botham. "You only get one crack."
McCullum is in charge of the crack.
England? Cracks a plenty and no clear idea - as yet - who is in charge of any of them.
England vs New Zealand
New Zealand tour of England