HEADINGLEY, LEEDS — It was hard not to spot the parallels as one era of English cricket turned the page and another gave confirmation of taking flight. They were as emphatic as one of Jonny Bairstow's booming shots down the ground. Once again, as the hosts charged to a seven-wicket win and 3-0 series triumph over New Zealand on Monday at Headingley, there were plenty of those.
Before Bairstow, who clubbed England's second-fastest Test fifty of all time, and Joe Root made absurdly short work of the further 111 runs required after Ollie Pope fell in the first over of day five, news broke during the morning rain washout that Eoin Morgan would stand down as the country's limited overs captain.
The 2019 World Cup final victory (also at the expense of New Zealand, who have an unfortunate habit of being in town when England teams are doing faintly absurd stuff) will remain his crowning glory but, when considering his overall seven-and-a-half-year tenure, it is tricky to identify a more transformative figure in modern English cricket.
Morgan was handed the hospital pass of a 2015 World Cup squad lacking identity and featuring a rump of players scarred by the 2014/15 Ashes whitewash. They crashed out in the group stages, utterly humiliated, and the new skipper pledged that if they were going to fail again it would be on his terms.
A few months later, New Zealand (who else?) arrived for an ODI series and Morgan packed his side with belligerent ball strikers. Gone was the traditional English caution of posting a total and making sure you used your 50-over allocation as a fearless side swung for the fences over and over again.
They won that first match against the Kiwis by 210 runs in Nottingham after posting 408/9 as Jos Buttler and Root smoked centuries. England's foot was to the throttle, a 3-2 series win followed and they kept it pressed down all the way to World Cup glory.
The opposition captain in that 2015 series was Brendon McCullum, a kindred spirit of Morgan's and now the man trying to oversee something similarly seismic as England's Test head coach.
What records did England set in the Test series vs. New Zealand?
"Morgs is one of my best mates," McCullum said after his team's latest swashbuckling win. "The impact he has had on English cricket and world cricket has obviously been significant. Obviously, he's a World Cup winner, but the story of him taking over and where they've got to, how cricket is now played around the world…
"The players he has bought through — some of the game's most exciting players, superstars of the modern game. They might have got there anyway, but I think he got them there quicker because of the approach he took."
McCullum and fledgling Test captain Ben Stokes certainly seem to be in a similar hurry. Against New Zealand, their overall run rate of 4.64 was the highest of any team to have batted five or more times in a series.
Bairstow, long a stalwart of Morgan's white-ball teams but still unsure of his place despite a decade at Test level heading into the New Zealand games, plundered 394 runs at a strike rate of 120.12, scoring two match-altering centuries in the process.
England chased targets in excess of 250 to win each game, the first time any team has done that in a three-Test series. They hauled in 277 at Lord's, 299 at Trent Bridge and 296 in Leeds. Those efforts all rank within England's 12 highest successful chases in history.
Such exploits would be impressive in any circumstances, but this came against the inaugural World Test Champions on the back of one win in 17 before McCullum and Stokes stepped in to soothe and inspire. In terms of a duff inheritance, it was certainly comparable to Morgan's in 2015.
It's all been implausibly entertaining. A familiar repeated noise in the press box at Headingley was disbelieving snorts of laughter. Such guffaws accompanied Root wildly reverse-scooping Neil Wagner for six on the fourth evening and Bairstow batting like a man who hadn't put enough money in the parking meter on Monday morning.
Purists will say it can't last and England definitely could have lost every game. They were bowled out for 141 in their first innings at Lord's, shipped 553 after asking New Zealand to bat at Trent Bridge and were 55/6 in their first innings at Headingley before Bairstow and debutant Jamie Overton rode to the rescue.
A team ending up in such strife suggests underlying fragility remains but imagine facing opponents, as India must do from this Friday at Edgbaston, who stare down such situations and win anyway.
"There will be some tough times, I have no doubt about that. During those times we have to be really strong in the belief about the direction we are heading," McCullum said. "If we can do that, and bank the good times we are having at the moment, we'll be in a position that is stronger when the tough times do come, to make sure we stay on task.
"We can't be successful every single time, there will be times that don't work. But you don't want to throw all the good work out to try and fix a bad performance when that time does come."
Stokes lays down clear challenge to County Championship players
It is a sentiment that recalls Morgan's early days as ODI captain. In his second series at home to Australia, England were all out in their three defeats in a 3-2 series loss. Surely, it couldn't go on, they would have to dial back on the aggression. But Morgan simply refined and improved the approach within a set template.
"I hope we take it too far because then we'll know exactly where that line is. Until you do that, you're not really sure," McCullum said, with no little relish. "We've seen it with the England white-ball stuff — there have been times where they've probably pushed too hard, and then they know. I think it'll be the same with us, and we've got to keep exploring what that line is."
It seems Stokes hasn't quite spotted it over the horizon at this point. McCullum chuckled as he regaled reporters with the story of his captain suggesting England might want to chase down 296 in 40-odd overs on Sunday evening and give themselves Monday off. Ludicrousness and plausibility are already familiar bedfellows for this new England.
McCullum is right to expect bumps in the road. No opponent will be caught cold in the manner New Zealand were and will plan accordingly. Sub-continental tours and Ashes series might also temper the unfettered abandon. But it is clear he and Stokes don't want this to be a short-term thing.
In a best-case scenario, their exploring where the line is will inspire other international teams, just as Morgan's fearlessness did in ODIs, breathing fresh life into cricket's grandest, oldest format. When their time ends, they will hope to match Morgan's legacy. There is no question right now over how England will continue to approach white-ball cricket, irrespective of who is the new captain.
The greater number of variables mean such fundamental change should be harder to sustain in Tests, but Stokes is keen for his team to set a tone for English cricket way beyond the walls of their dressing room.
"I think these last three games, they should have sent the message to people who aspire to play Test cricket for England over the next two or three years, at least," he said. "I would say it's the manner of the way that you're going to play, whether with ball or bat in your hand. Not necessarily your stats, or anything like that, it's the manner that you play that's going to be first and foremost on selectors' minds.
"What I think we've done over the last three weeks is make people enjoy watching Test cricket again. I'd like to think people watching would know what they sort of have to do to bang the door down to get in this team."
McCullum added: "If I was a young player around county cricket and I saw what our number five [Bairstow] for England is currently doing and how he's encouraged to play that way, then I'd probably look at trying to play like that myself to ensure that I would get noticed as well in case something was to happen to that person."
It's been a hellaciously fun month. Perhaps reality will bite and the warm revolutionary glow of 'Bazball' won't last. But, as the plaudits flood in for Morgan, his good mates McCullum and Stokes will know he was told it couldn't last, either. And look how that worked out.