David Warner made his way to the boundary and the crowd cheered. Then they gave him the Rocky theme song. Then they chanted “Warner, Warner give us a punch.” Then Dave Warner scratched his backside and the crowd cheered.
The last day of the Ashes crowd was essentially like being in a T20 crowd where people actually understood the game.
People who have never screamed wide in their life, screamed at a ball slightly wide of off stump. People who only ever clap politely raised their hands above their heads. Spontaneous cheering took over normal human beings. Leg byes made people shriek. If there was a fancy dress booth behind the pavilion, the members would have hired batman costumes and danced on the balcony. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott were told to get on with it. Kevin Pietersen’s arrival was celebrated like Elvis’s second coming.
It was not like a normal day of Test cricket in almost any way. It was like Test cricket had a pulse and meant something deeply. One guy ripped his shirt off at an Australian wicket. Forget politeness and muted enjoyment, this was a party. The England fans were here to party with their boys.
The Australia fans sat lifeless in one area, like wallflowers at a school dance. Their faces had 3-0, and for a time probably 4-0, written all over them. Their wallets had been worked over, their national identity had been worked over and now they had to sit at the party while the other team enjoyed every single minute. There was not a smile between them.
The rest of the crowd enjoyed every shot, booed every attempt at Australia slowing down the game and couldn’t believe their luck that they were about to see an amazing win that almost none of them could have believed would happen. They were probably so excited, they never even noticed the light fade. Until the lights in the pavilion became obvious, there was no need too.
Then the party was stopped, as if the police said the music was too loud. No one agreed.
The way the crowd had formed into a cheering single entity that was intent on a good time, you could have been forgiven for thinking a riot was about to happen. Instead a lot of booing and literally a handful of empty plastic beer cups were thrown at no one in particular. Between the boos the crowd made the sound of confusion, which is hard to describe, but you know it when 20,000 people do it at once.
The umpires were booed as they walked off and then booed as they got their awards. Aleem Dar waved at them. The match referee was booed as well. As was the third and fourth umpire. If the umpires had a mascot, it also would have been booed.
The ground was still virtually full, except where the Australians had left. Those Aussies who remained sat in a tight group. Safety in very small numbers.
Shane Watson receiving the Man-of the-Match award was booed. It was hard to know why. When Mike Atherton announced Warner, there was more booing. But Warner had earned it. Atherton tried his best to educate the mob about the light rulings from a stage not facing half of them with slightly delayed audio. Surprisingly it didn’t work.
Then Michael Clarke was booed. And then clapped. Even on a day you saw him try and drag the umpires off for bad light, he’s still not the villain Ricky Ponting was for opposition fans.
Then Alastair Cook was booed. It wasn’t a personal thing. He just tried to defend the umpires, and that was a no go area, even if you had just won the Ashes.
There was far more clapping of course. Sometimes during the boos. Sometimes just after. The players were cheered for each medal. They were cheered for each gesture. People cheered for the fireworks (which would have only been useful in conditions this dark). People cheered for champagne. People cheered as the players walked around the ground with their kids. People cheered for cheering’s sake.
If you were watching on TV you wouldn’t have understood it. You had to be there. See the excitement. Hear the noise. Feel the party. It was Test cricket at its very best. The crowd cheered. The crowd booed. The crowd were entertained.
It was a party. An Ashes party. A Test match party. A celebration of England. A celebration for Test cricket. It was loud. It was fun. It was nonsensical. It was cricket.