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That sense of anticipation is only heightened when the two guys charged with preventing that happening are in good touch and looking to score first, defend second.
It's a rare combination of events but for a 40-minute period in the second session of the second test between New Zealand and Pakistan, that's exactly what the crowd got – and it was pure theatre.
The day ended with Pakistan all out for 297, a satisfactory total given they were 83-4 before lunch.
Kyle Jamieson, from the Botanic Gardens End, was terrific, using his tall frame and high action to hit lengths that dared batsmen to press forward while also threatening to break fingers.
Azhar Ali and in particular Mohammad Rizwan were not ready to play the victims. Azhar would adroitly drop and run, his experience telling him that the non-striker's end was the best place to play Jamieson.
Rizwan looked to take the attack to Jamieson. He drove on the up through covers, he played and missed, he cut through point, he let the odd one go.
It was impossible to divert your eyes, like Inigo Montoya versus Westley in The Princess Bride, every movement, every thrust, parry and counter-thrust had a purpose.
Jamieson eventually won the battle, Rizwan edging through to BJ Watling for 61, continuing a series where he has passed 50 in all three knocks and has looked a class above most of those above him in the order.
Jamieson, who ended the day with 5-69, his third five-wicket bag in tests, couldn't account for Azhar, however.
The veteran of 83 matches and more than 6000 runs was playing a classic of his own, though with perhaps less panache than his captain. He had some luck, as you have to have when batting on the first morning of a test in New Zealand, but he got the balance right between attack and defence.
Those below them profited against the old ball. Faheem Ashraf survived a simple chance on four and went to 48 before edging Jamieson to Taylor (who was the culprit for his let-off) and Zafar Gohar on debut stroked his way to 34 before succumbing to a Tim Southee bumper in the first over of the second new ball.
Trent Boult picked up his first, Shaheen Shah Afridi (four) in the next over and wrapped up the innings by having Naseem Shah snapped up by Tom Latham in the slips for a breezy 12.
The comfort level the Pakistanis had at the crease was surprising, but that was in keeping with a day that defied expectations.
The first two eye-openers occurred before a ball had been bowled.
For the first time this summer an opposition captain called incorrectly and New Zealand had first use of a wicket that was green, but perhaps not as lush as expected.
The second surprise came with the naming of the teams. Pakistan left Yasir Shah's 227 wickets on the sideline, preferring the stronger batting of left-arm orthodox spinner Zafar Gohar. Mitchell Santner's late heroics were not enough to convince coach and captain that he had a role to play as Daryl Mitchell won the all-rounder slot and Henry that vacated by Neil Wagner.
As it happened, Henry had a chance to make an impact from the first ball of the match. Shan Masood pushed to square leg, ran and was sent back but Henry missed with the opener stranded.
Shan may have been anxious to get off the mark having fallen for a duck in the second innings at Mt Maunganui and it turned out that feeling of disquiet was well founded. The eighth ball he faced was a late-swinging, toe-crushing Southee yorker that created a triple indignity: it toppled Shan to the turf, it saw him given out for a duck and it encouraged a contemptible review.
Azhar and Abid Ali enjoyed a 50-run stand before Abid edged Jamieson to Southee in the slips.
Haris Sohail (one) half-left, half-played and fully stuffed up as the ball slid from the face of his bat to Henry Nicholls in the gully.
First-test century-maker Fawad Alam then got the ball of the season to leave the visitors reeling at 83-4.
Enter Rizwan and an engrossing battle of wills and skills.