Alastair Cook claimed complete vindication for England's safety-first approach to the second Test after Graeme Swann led them through a small window of opportunity between the Leeds showers to claim 10 wickets in a match for the third time in his international career.
For much of a slate-grey Tuesday, Cook's determination "not to give New Zealand a sniff" of squaring the series threatened to cost England a 2-0 whitewash of the Black Caps, as only 48 minutes' play was possible before lunch. But when the rain relented, the umpires Steve Davis and Marais Erasmus responded to England's urgency by ordering a 3pm resumption, and little more than half an hour later Jimmy Anderson wrapped up a 247-run victory when he had Trent Boult caught behind to claim his 307th Test wicket.
That brought Anderson level with Fred Trueman as the third most successful England bowler in Test cricket, now behind only Bob Willis and Ian Botham, but there were only a couple of hundred Yorkshiremen in the ground to see the Lancastrian reach his latest milestone. Swann ended with six for 90 in the second innings to complete match figures of 10 for 132, the best of his career and the finest by a spinner in a Headingley Test for almost 41 years.
"The result definitely vindicates the decision," said Cook, who had declined the option to enforce the follow-on. "There's absolutely no doubt about that at all. To win by 250 runs, and in just over three days' cricket, was an outstanding performance – we went up a level from Lord's in all aspects of our play."
He conceded to a sinking feeling when he opened the curtains of his hotel room in the morning, but praised the work of the Headingley groundstaff. Earlier Andy Flower, England's team director, had seemed less impressed. There was also a slight divergence between the verdicts of captain and coach on another of the talking points of the match, Jonathan Trott's passive batting in the second innings on Sunday evening, when England might have been expected to press on. Flower said in his post-match Sky interview that Trott "could have been more urgent", but Cook told BBC radio that such criticism would be "nitpicking".
"It's very easy sitting behind the rope saying I would have pulled out with 350 on the board or whatever," he added, referring to the media rather than Flower. "You're judged as a captain on results and in this game we've won by 250 runs." Cook might have added that it was his sixth win in 11 Tests as captain, during which England have suffered a single defeat. As he said of his apparently defensive field-placings in New Zealand's second innings: "Sometimes there are different ways of skinning a cat."Cook also had some much-needed words of encouragement for Nick Compton, who had a miserable match as his opening partner. Asked whether selecting a new opener for England's next Test – against Australia at Trent Bridge in mid-July, as you may have heard – would be a risk, he said: "Yes, I think it would be. It is an important position in a very big series. You are in the firing line straight away and you want to set a good tone at the top of the order."
Compton has been cleared of any serious damage to the muscle he strained in the field on Sunday and is expected to return to the Somerset team in a one-day game against Glamorgan in Taunton on Sunday. Cook will lead England's 50-over squad into a three-match series against New Zealand, starting at Lord's on Friday, followed by the Champions Trophy – which begins in Cardiff next Thursday, with England's first game against Australia at Edgbaston on Saturday week. But with this first starter devoured, England's main course of the summer – the Ashes – is now coming closer into view. "We're in a good place but there's still a long time to go and a lot of things can change," said Cook.
Brendon McCullum, the New Zealand captain, who dismissed his team's performance as "incredibly disappointing", described England as "red-hot favourites at home, with their ability to swing the Duke's ball. I might even watch it if I get time."
His team's Champions Trophy hopes have suffered a major blow with Boult, their bowling spearhead, almost certain to be ruled out of the tournament with a side injury.
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