Stuart Broad whipped up a frenzy under the floodlights in Mount Maunganui, clean bowling four of New Zealand’s top five to put England on the road to another thrilling Test victory.
Broad was a terror in the twilight at the Bay Oval, producing a magical opening burst that saw him rearrange the stumps of Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Tom Latham and Tom Blundell in the latest game-changing spell in a career that will be remembered for them.
Another entertaining batting display had left New Zealand chasing 394 – 70 more than any Kiwi side has ever managed before in a successful fourth innings – and Broad’s scintillating return of four for 21 from one bumper 10-over shift duly left them reeling at 63 for five.
A 10th win in 11 attempts under the inspirational leadership of captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum will surely follow on Sunday. The revolutionary pair had earlier shared a moment, when Stokes overtook McCullum as the biggest six-hitter in Test cricket.
But the moment belonged to Broad. One by one New Zealand’s top order went face-to-face with the 36-year-old and one by one they were helpless to stop him snaking the pink Kookaburra through their defences.
Broad was in his element as he delivered what looked to be the defining performance of the match, eyes wide, fingers pointing as he celebrated with his team-mates and whipped up the massed fans on the Bay Oval’s grass banks.
Having spoken before the game about his preference for the red ball rather than the pink, it was hard to conceive what chaos he might have caused with his weapon of choice.
England had timed their run perfectly, wrapping their own second innings up on 374 just as the artificial light was starting to take over. That is the hardest time for batting, with the ball performing more friskily than it does in the sunshine and the visibility notoriously awkward as the darkness falls.
They went level with Australian greats Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath’s record of 1,001 scalps during the first innings and by the time Broad had weaved his spell, they were out on their own.
Broad had lost his new-ball status to Robinson last summer and missed the winter tour of Pakistan, but the decision to trust his knack against left-handers paid off instantly as he attacked Conway from round the wicket and shaped one into the top of off stump.
But Broad did not get to his elevated status in the game by being a one-trick pony and he promptly proved he can be just as lethal to the right-handers.
Despite laying down the captaincy at the end of last year, Kane Williamson remains his country’s most important player and classiest batter, but he could do nothing to deter Broad as he produced a mirror image dismissal that rocked the timbers again.
Latham joined the procession, leaving enough of a gap between bat and pad for Broad to find a way through and make it 19 for three. By now he was in his element, calling on the crowd to play their part and straining at the leash at the top of his mark.
Ollie Robinson briefly interrupted Broad’s command performance, getting one to lift outside Henry Nicholls’ off stump and taking the edge on its way through to Ben Foakes, but the leading man was not yet done.
Even Blundell, fresh from an outstanding 138 on day two, was unable to hold the line, groping for contact before losing his middle stump.
Earlier, England’s batters had played their part in shaping the game as Joe Root (54), Harry Brook (57) and Foakes (51) all built the scoreboard pressure that would later weigh heavy on the hosts.
Ollie Pope missed out on becoming the fourth half-centurion by a single run but it was his free hitting that set the tone.
It was Pope who aggressively targeted Neil Wagner, unloading three sixes over fine-leg as the left-armer’s stubborn persistence in repeatedly banging in short balls saw him bank eye-watering figures of two for 110 off just 13 overs.
That represented the second worst economy rate ever recorded in Tests, with a minimum of 10 overs bowled.
Stokes hit two sixes to put daylight between himself and McCullum, whose record of 107 maximums stood for the last seven years, earning a smile and a clap from his coach on the balcony. A memorable achievement, but one that Broad would soon be reducing to a footnote.