In a flash, it was gone. New Zealand boldly dared to dream of a rare test win at Lord's but in the space of one horror hour it became a nightmare.
Requiring 239 to beat England after an outstanding 10-wicket match haul by Tim Southee, New Zealand were right in their chase - for about five overs.
Then the lanky figure of Stuart Broad awoke to produce one of his rare, unplayable spells and New Zealand’s batsmen were frozen to the spot.
The tourists folded for 68 in 22.3 overs as England cantered to a 170-run victory leaving skipper Brendon McCullum standing in Lord's outfield trying to make sense of a horror hour, only matched by the first morning at Cape Town in January.
"It’s pretty tough to explain at this point. For so long in this game we were up with the play and at times we were dictating terms," he said.
"Within an hour the game turned on its head and England continued to grow in confidence as they kept picking up regular wickets. Our confidence started to subside and the difference between the two teams came down to that one hour of madness."
With England paceman Broad breathing fire and hauling in 7-44, New Zealand were skittled for 68.
Their chase for what appeared a very gettable 239 to win lasted just 114 minutes, ending an absorbing, seesawing test in the most brutal circumstances, midway through the fourth day.
When McCullum was lbw to Broad for eight, his second failure of the test, New Zealand staggered to lunch on 29-6, their chase over.
It revived memories of the collapse for 45 against South Africa in January, albeit in the first innings rather than the fourth.
"There was plenty of calm about the guys in the changing room and we weren't able to transfer that out to the middle. We've had many of these experiences before and I think we've put distance between the last time we felt this sort of pain," McCullum said.
“We've taken some significant steps forward in the last little while but today was undoubtedly a step backwards."
McCullum said the batsmen shouldered some of the blame but he paid tribute to Broad who bowled full and fast.
"You’ve got to give credit where credit’s due and Stuart Broad’s spell of bowling was high class. He swung the ball beautifully, he was able to get the odd ball to hold its line up the slope and his lengths were impeccable. He bowled at reasonable pace as well and we weren’t able to work out a way to get through it."
The question is now, what kind of psychological damage this causes to New Zealand heading into Friday's second and final test at Leeds.
Memories of the Cape Town collapse for 45 in January had almost faded. This pavilion procession revived them as New Zealand slumped to 29-6 at lunch, with Broad taking five of the first six.
First innings standout James Anderson was reduced to bit-part player as only two bowlers were required.
It was a mixture of outstanding swing bowling, poor shot selection and the gravity of the situation as New Zealand eyed their second test win at Lord’s, 14 years after their first.
They'd done so much hard work to stare down a gettable target as home fans shifted nervously in their seats.
But the chase was over almost before it had begun.
Opener Peter Fulton completed a forgettable first appearance at Lord’s when he hung the bat out to one he should have left.
Hamish Rutherford got his second unplayable delivery in as many innings then Ross Taylor lasted just two deliveries before he sparred at Broad.
The slide was on and there was an inevitable air to it, with no one having the ability or fortitude to haul the innings up by the scruff of the neck.
New Zealand staggered past their lowest total at Lord’s, 47 in 1958, but the end was nigh.
It ended in comedy, too, as topscorer Neil Wagner (17) was run out and being dropped on the boundary.
But despite the loss it wasn't a completely hopeless experience for the Black Caps.
There were positives to cling to, particularly the bowling where Tim Southee had his name etched on the Lord's honours board with his second innings 6-50 to give him 10 wickets for the match.
Trent Boult and Wagner were excellent foils as the New Zealand pace attack continued to cause problems for England's batting lineup.
"I'm obviously pretty gutted with the result and that personal achievement will sink in later on. It was a special moment coming off and walking through the members' area. It's something to dream of and it's a moment I'll remember forever," said Southee as he became the first New Zealand paceman since Chris Cairns in 1999 to make the coveted honours board.
There are also injury concerns for New Zealand, with spinner Bruce Martin (calf strain) almost certain to miss the second test and gloveman BJ Watling (bruised knee) in serious doubt.
Both batted in serious discomfort, with no runners permitted in international cricket now.
Paceman Doug Bracewell and batsman Martin Guptill appear likely to come in if both are ruled out, with McCullum the most likely wicketkeeper. Tom Latham is another option to take the gloves if McCullum plays as a batsman.
Two wildcard selections are Daniel Vettori and Luke Ronchi, who arrive with the one-day squad on Wednesday. That may be too late for them to be considered, and Vettori played his last first-class match in July, but McCullum didn’t rule anything out.
"There's plenty of different options we have to look at. It's important to note that batters have done a very good job for us in the most recent test matches. I totally believe in this group of players and just because of one poor batting performance it's not panic stations."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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