It was a day when the sense of occasion was expected to supersede the action.

It did anything but.

The first day-night test in New Zealand provided extraordinary scenes, but most of them occurred under blue skies, long before those with the keys to the fuse box thought about switching the lights on.

England, mighty England, were bowled out for 58 and the score flattered them, buttressed by a bludgeoning 33 not out from Craig Overton, the No 9 batsman who had walked out with the score at an eye-popping 23 for 7.


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Even then, with that late flurry, a quarter of a test match scheduled for five days was over in less than two hours.

Barely a beer had been poured or a gourmet burger pattie flipped in the newly created night market on the outer oval before England's 21-over first innings had ended. Loungers remained unlounged in, tickets were still to be collected.

The pop-up barber, positioned high on the concourse between East and North stands so clientele did not have to miss a ball, was miles behind in the ratio of heads shaved to wickets fallen.

You imagine somewhere up in the corporate zones, New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White teetered on the edge of reason as he smiled between gritted teeth. The national body needs this day-night concept to work, to breathe life back into a format that has grown increasingly unloved by paying spectators and broadcasters.

Asked what success would look like to him, White said: "Success will be gauged on a combination of factors. Clearly ticket sales and TV viewing numbers will be key, but the spirit and energy of the crowd, the popularity of the events within the event and, not least, the quality of the cricket in the middle will all contribute to what might be called a 'good result'."

What he didn't say, but might have had the question been posed to him two hours later was: "Well, we need to get to the weekend at least."

All talk of New Zealand Cricket's brave new world, however, seemed a little irrelevant when it was two old stagers wreaking havoc.

Trent Boult and Tim Southee have seen some heady days at this park but as they chewed the fat over croissants and coffee yesterday morning, it was unlikely either of them scripted this sort of fantasy. There was no room for any other bowler as they mopped up the 10 English wickets between them – six to Boult, four to Southee – aided by some spectacular catching behind the wicket.

How much of this damage was due to their experience and skill? How much was it down to a wicket that provided just enough assistance to be menacing. How much was it down to the pink ball?

This last point is genuine. Non-cricket people might be surprised just how much conjecture the performance of a 160g pastel-coloured projectile has created.
The lights finally came into play at 7pm. By that stage New Zealand's ship-steadying captain Kane Williamson and Tom Latham had calmly guided New Zealand through to a position of relative strength at 88 for 1.

Latham went, and Ross Taylor joined the skipper, and New Zealand pushed past 120 before Taylor holed out, leaving New Zealand 123 for 3 with over an hour until stumps.

By now the hospitality boxes were buzzing too, and the ground, while a long way from full, was positively heaving in comparison to tests of the recent past here.

We'll get a better idea of the success of installations like the barber's chair and the night market on Friday evening and Saturday, when numbers are expected to swell. In marketing terms, yesterday's was a soft launch, but there wouldn't be any great anxiety over this. Test cricket has been a hard sell in New Zealand for years, midweek test cricket near on impossible.

As evening fell and the players took their extended dinner break, the crowd gravitated to the outer oval. It provided something the cavernous main stadium has never been able to do for cricket outside of those magical World Cup nights - a sense of community.

If this test meanders its way through to Saturday night at least, New Zealand Cricket, the organisation, will have won.

Chances are, given the performance of Boult and Southee yesterday, New Zealand, the team, will have too.

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