If that was the definition of what Test cricket can be, why would you want to watch anything else? At a sun-drenched Trent Bridge yesterday, on the fifth day of the second Test against New Zealand, every result was on the table for England.
A win for England would have cemented their first series win in over a year, a loss would have sent the series to a decider and a draw would have at least meant England couldn’t lose the series when the third test comes around on Friday.
But in one of the great days of Test cricket in modern English history – head coach Brendon McCullum and captain Ben Stokes’ side cruised to a five-wicket win.
England made it look easy?
It wasn’t as easy as Stokes and partner Jonny Bairstow made it look in their flurry of runs after tea, but the manner of win matters not when the victory is secured.
New Zealand began the day with three wickets in hand, looking to pile on as many runs to set England the hardest possible target.
Trent Boult became the record holder for the most runs scored by a player batting at No11 and he helped his Black Caps side add 60 runs for their three wickets. The target was 299.
England’s challenge was simple: 299 runs in 72 overs at a rate of just over four runs per over.
And in front of 17,000 fans who had not paid to be there – Nottinghamshire CCC made the fifth day free entry (what a masterstroke) – England got off to the best possible start.
Alex Lees – growing into his role as opener – scored four runs off each of the opening two deliveries, becoming the first Englishman to do so since Andrew Strauss in 2006.
But the machine soon lost a cog when Zak Crawley was bowled for a duck – his batting average of 23.13 is now the second lowest of any England opener to have batted at least 25 times.
Ollie Pope in his new-found position of three fell cheaply, as did former captain and run machine Joe Root. Lees himself fell to leave England 93-4 chasing 299. A daunting chase remained.
Step up Bairstow and Stokes. The pair of middle order batters expressed themselves in true McCullum style and simply chased down the runs as if they were playing a Twenty20 match.
Bairstow’s sublime knock of 136 included the second fastest century in English history – his 77-ball ton completed in just one more delivery than Gilbert Jessop’s in 1902 – while the fastest ever remains a 54-ball knock from his new head coach McCullum.
And Stokes’ unbeaten 75 – including a boundary reminiscent of the winning hit of the Headingley Ashes Test – completed the chase, alongside Ben Foakes, despite the England captain visibly hobbling throughout much of his knock.
Bairstow and Stokes took England from 150 to 200 in just 3.4 overs and helped England complete their 299-run chase with 22 overs to spare.
No side in the history of Test cricket has scored as many runs at a quicker rate than England did yesterday, and it will go down as one of the very best days of Test cricket.
England’s captain may have looked injured as he raised his bat to cement the victory, but Stokes dug in and really demonstrated his commitment.
The Stokes and McCullum bandwagon is in full flow and the side is two from two. Up next they’ll aim to secure a series whitewash against the Black Caps for the first time since 2013 – do that and England fans might finally enjoy a summer of Test cricket once more.
And as for the ebb and flow of the Test match as a whole? What played out at Trent Bridge over the last five days was an ode to the beauty of what Test cricket can be.