The matches promised to be the most pointless and anti-climactic games ever to grace the international calendar.
England’s eyes would be looking ahead to the main event of the summer, the Ashes, while New Zealand would be desperate to get home after almost two months away on tour.
The thing is, no-one told the players, or the capacity crowd at the Oval, as New Zealand won a thrilling first T20 match by five runs.
This England set-up had the look of the reserve team about it, with former Ireland bowler Boyd Rankin earning his first cap and Ben Stokes returning after being dropped for his indiscipline on a Lions tour.
But they produced a great display of batting in their attempt to chase down a target of 202. Alex Hales put aside recent poor form to score 39 from 29 balls, and Luke Wright hit a quick-fire 52 from 34 balls.
Ravi Bopara was at the crease in the last over but was unable to hit a six off the final ball off Corey Anderson to set up a super over.
The England bowling was pretty nondescript, with Chris Woakes not asked to bowl again after going for 19 in his first over, and James Tredwell being taken for 32 from his two.
But the result was unimportant - this game had the innocence of an early T20 game, and it was all the better for it.
The Twenty20 format was introduced as a money-spinner for county sides in 2003, and in the early days neither the players nor the supporters attached too much importance to it.
The money on offer in the format now means that cricketers take T20 far more seriously.
Yet at the Oval, though the game was played hard, the match had an end-of-tour feeling about it.
The crowd drank steadily, the Ravi Bopara chants increased in volume, and it all seemed far more fun than one would have expected from an international game.
That may be partly due to the inspirational and brilliant Black Caps’ captain Brendon McCullum.
McCullum is a hard cricketer, but a born risk-taker as a captain and he once again changed the course of the game with an innovative field placing.
Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright were going well and hitting the boundary regularly, but McCullum counter-intuitively pulled a fielder from a defensive position and put in Ross Taylor at slip.
Moments later, Taylor produced a stunning one-handed catch to dismiss Morgan, and New Zealand were in the ascendancy.
McCullum is a modest man and he typically played down his contribution afterwards.
"The only way to stem the flow of runs is to take wickets and we managed to do that. That's why I had the slip in,” he said.
But modern professional sport is all about percentages and playing to set plans, and few captains would have made the move.
McCullum’s captaincy is different though – there still remains in him some of the spirit of the gentleman amateur.
He takes risks, he improvises, he tries to shake opponents out of their complacency – and he makes watching cricket fun.