Beating Australia at their own game
The Eric Hollies Stand might have been half-empty, but there was no doubt that the crowd's glasses were more than half-full. In fact, their cup overflowed. And we're not talking alcohol, or even ICC-regulation Pepsi-manufactured soft drinks. It was the kind of outpouring that comes only from seeing Australia beaten in the sporting arena.
What made it so peculiarly satisfying for those England fans who managed to beg, borrow or skive the day off work to be here was that it was clearly no fluke. There were no advantageous conditions (aside from the toss), no overly helpful umpiring decisions, and no feeling that England had somehow been lucky to make it. Admittedly, a victory over Australia by any means would taste as sweet, but here England beat their greatest rivals at their own game - professionalism.
List those attributes of Australia that England have envied so often and so forlornly in their winless run, and they showed them all here. Confidence, brutality, tenacity, never-say-die attitude - the whole gamut was forced mercilessly back down their oppressor's throat.
Exhibit A: Marcus Trescothick
When he dropped Adam Gilchrist off the final ball of Andrew Flintoff's first over, a sigh went up. Gilchrist was on 18 and Australia had got off to a flyer. It was too familiar - the early drop that proves suicidal. The moment that the horror victim lets the gun slip from her grasp and suddenly finds it pointed back at her. But where once chaos would have ensued, now England didn't give the lost chance a second thought. They simply waited for the next one that they knew would come, and when it presented itself, Trescothick took it nervelessly. If that wasn't enough compensation, he took another two catches as well.
Exhibit B: Darren Gough
After Gough's handy performances throughout the tournament, Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden had made him look like a dying species. Vaughan took him off after his first three overs went for 18, and when he came back on at the end, Michael Clarke and Brett Lee set about another ravaging. But Gough knew what he was there for, and he didn't swerve from his task. The very ball after Lee had swung him into the Wyatt Stand for six, he bowled him with a perfect straight ball, like a schoolmaster teaching his know-it-all pupil a lesson. And to follow it up, a yorker to Gillespie to put him on a hat-trick. Repeating his Test feat of 1998-99 proved impossible, but it was almost as enjoyable watching him calling in the field for the hat-trick ball - as Vaughan desperately tried to over-ride his bowler's orders.
Exhibit C: Michael Vaughan
After Solanki fell early, Vaughan was the easy target for the Australians. But he showed not a hint of the pressure he admits to have put on himself (let alone the pressure mounting from everyone else) over his form, as he unleashed his stable of drives. Under his captaincy, the motto for the England side has been "to thine own self be true", and he gave a sparkling example as he built an innings of self-expression that topped his previous-best of 83 against South Africa last July. With Trescothick, he showed that the Australians are just as susceptible to cracking as anyone else, if you hammer away at them often enough. Dispatching Lee for six fours in 13 balls, including one beautiful pull over mid-on, Vaughan blunted Australia's spearhead (Lee went for 30 runs from his first three overs), and the rest of the attack could not find a way to withstand the assault. Sure enough, the fielding was the next thing to go, and the unlikely sight of Australia's cricket athletes scrambling helplessly for balls on the ropes, or missing catches at slip, was the one that, perhaps, today's crowd will remember longest.
Emma John is deputy editor of The Wisden Cricketer magazine.