Yesterday was one for the history books. No win is as sweet as a win over the Aussies and even that legendary Sunday morning at Edgbaston in 2005 now has a rival in the fond memories of England cricket fans.
I must have been born under a lucky star to be at both of these most famous victories. 2005 was the nail-biter to end all nails. Yesterday’s World Cup semi-final was an unbelievable “pinch me” day where everything but everything went right for England.
As we walked to the ground after breakfast at The High Field the omens weren’t good. Rain was predicted and Eoin Morgan uncharacteristically lost the toss. Long snaking lines through friendly security meant the game began with thousands of fans still on their way in. A cheer went up and on the big screen Aaron Finch was heading for the pavilion. Another cheer rang out as we scrambled for our seats in the Hollies. Warner won his review – but the reprieve did not last long. He was out for 9 to Woakes, Warwickshire and England’s self-effacing secret weapon. Peter Handscomb, called up to replace Khawaja from the Australia A tour where he last played Gloucestershire Seconds, could not be blamed for failing to cope with another beauty from Woakes. The flashing stumps looked fabulous against a cloudy Birmingham sky. Australia 14 for 3. Pinch me, somebody.
We still needed Smith’s wicket. He and Carey refused to oblige for a long time. They were slow though, scoring at 3 runs an over, hardly ever broaching the boundary. The score crept up and we all started calculating the likely total. 240 would be a tough chase. Nobody fancied 250. And then they ran a quick two – turned into a fatal 1.99 by a genius throw from Jos Buttler to the non-striker’s end that somehow went through the scampering Smith’s legs and smashed the stumps. Pinch me, somebody.
That wicket opened the door. Rashid took 3. Jofra came back and bowled a new knuckle ball to bamboozle Maxwell. With one over left the last wicket fell for 223. We could do this. Couldn’t we? If only the rain held off.
The Hollies stand stood ready to be England’s twelfth man. Throughout the Australian innings we had cheered Jonny Bairstow and Joe Roooooot every time they jogged down towards the mid wicket boundary. Jerusalem had been deployed early, along with the Barmy army song and numerous Sweet Carolines. But the first chorus of “Cricket’s coming home” was saved up until Jason Roy hit Mitchell Starc for 6.
Bairstow and Roy did the thing we love them to do, posting yet another century partnership. Steve Smith’s single over was an extra-special gift. We didn’t sit down after Roy’s second six. We knew the next ball had to go too. But even the Hollies laughed as one when it rebounded off the top tier of the stand back onto the field – no one has ever hit a six that far here before.
Once Bairstow and Roy were given out Morgan and Root took over. Not one but two captains on the bridge. We passed the 20 over mark which meant that Duckworth-Lewis would come into play if the rain came. And England were already on double the DLS par. “Warner, Warner tell us the score” sang the Hollies.
The few declared Aussie fans started to leave the ground. “Cheerio, cheerio, cheerio” sang the Hollies. Suddenly England needed 21 runs in 21 overs. Pinch me, somebody.
As it ended with a Morgan four and a huge bear hug from Root, the rain finally began to fall and the happy Hollies choir strolled out towards the Bristol Road and (another) well-earned pint. Forget St Johns Wood. Edgbaston is the home of England’s most famous victories. I won’t say the Hollies made it happen, but there is something about the joyous mickey-taking, the non-conformist cheek, the broad Brummie church of all races, ages and genders that makes Edgbaston a place where an England team finds it easy to believe in itself. Chris Woakes, Player of the Match, called it the greatest ground in the world.
On Sunday we’re in the World Cup final. Pinch me, somebody.
The High Field, 22 Highfield Road, Edgbaston, B15 3DP
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