England v India, 3rd npower Test, Edgbaston August 15, 2011

Coronation treat

The Barmy Army celebrate England's ascent to Number 1, Nagraj Gollapudi records the moment

Tom Cruise came in as Maverick from Top Gun. Elvis came. Spiderman came. Robocop came. Kiss came. Mr Blobby came. Santa Claus came. The Native Americans came. The various versions of Shane Warne came. Liz Hurley was not far behind. Young blondes wearing white chef's, or Cook's, hats with the number 294 printed on them came. Indians wearing the Gandhi topi came. The penguins, too, jumped in. Even the naked apes came. Everyone except God came.

The Eric Hollies Stand at Edgbaston was a universe of its own last Saturday. The occasion was the coronation of England as the world's No.1 Test team. And the sights, sounds, colours and noises made sure the new kings were feted in grand fashion. The choreographers for the show were the Barmy Army. When Bill 'the Trumpet' Cooper blew his instrument as Big Graham, the leader of the chorus, sang the 'Last Post' at the fall of the ninth Indian wicket, the noise reached a crescendo. It was a moment when even the England players acknowledged that they ruled the Test world.

"It was just a fantastic feeling when the last Indian wicket fell. We have not always been the best team in the world but we have always had a great time. To be No.1 in the world and see it on the rankings and Australia No. 5 is amazing. That is phenomenal," David Peacock, one of the Barmy Army's founding members, gushed in his soft voice, clutching a half-empty glass of beer on the terrace of the Australian pub Walkabout in the heart of Birmingham. Groups of Barmy Army fans were scattered at various drinking holes, some across the canal that overlooks the Walkabout.

"It doesn't really matter that we are Twenty20 champions," Peacock said. "We are not worried about the one-day World Cup. For us in England, Test cricket is what matters. I am 44 years old and this is one of the best days of my life."

About 400 Barmy Army members were present at the ground when England were crowned the No.1 team. The Edgbaston Test had already been earmarked as the first Barmy Army Arms reunion since the Ashes triumph in January.

"Not in the same league. Long way behind," Peacock said when asked to compare England's ascent to the top of the rankings to the Ashes victory. "India, let's be honest, their preparation was so poor. It is embarrassing. Look how we prepared for the Ashes - proper warm-ups, serious cricket, everything was geared up for us to peak."

The Barmy Army's charm has always been that it was a team of joyful, enthusiastic supporters of a team that did not really deserve them. When they first started in Australia in 1994-95, during the fifth Test in Perth, they had a banner that said "who are these cricketers who keep following us around?"

As a child, Peacock, like thousands of English cricket fans, would dream about travelling to Australia. Growing up, he never thought he would ever be able to. But Peacock, who works as recruitment director for the fan club in London, has been to Australia five times. To begin with, he, like various England sides, suffered pain inflicted by the dominant teams of Allan Border, Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting.

"The worst was to go to Australia and be done 5-0. But in hindsight we were outclassed by probably the best Test side [ever]. It is very hard to go halfway round the world, spend £10,000 and come back having lost 5-0," Peacock said. "But actually people do not understand the beauty of following your team and the fun you have following England on tour. Even if we lost we had the best time in our lives. We just saw a great team beat us in 40-degree heat. We all know we are privileged. My dream was to see England win in Australia and then give up. But now that I have seen it once I never want to give up."

"It is a funny thing. We are not used to it," Cooper, the trumpeter, said over the phone from London. "We have seen England play some poor games over the years but now to see them become the No.1 is a fantastic feeling. We thought India were going to be a big test but to beat them so comprehensively, it has been a bit of a strange feeling. We are not used to dominating teams like that.

"We are not used to singing songs like 'We are the champions, we are the No.1'," Cooper said. He plays the trumpet for a living and had toured for the first time with the Barmy Army on the Caribbean tour of 2004.

The first time Cooper played the 'Last Post', a tune he plays very rarely, was when England lost the Ashes in 2007. "It was a very sad day," he said. "But to have the crowds at Edgbaston singing 'We are the champions' was fantastic."

England are only days old in the top seat but already their followers want them to chart a path of dominance in the years to come. "Tonight we are the best team in the world. And we beat India, who were the best team in the world. We need to win the ODI World Cup. We need to dominate overall," said Steve Butt Fish, an automotive engineer from the Midlands who has been with the Barmy Army for 10 years.

Fish, who was sitting in the grand stand when England sealed the victory, was disappointed that Sachin Tendulkar did not get his 100th century. "We all wanted Tendulkar to get his hundred. He is such a great batsman, a great sportsman; so why shouldn't he?"

Peacock also expects more from England in the future. For him winning away from home is the real test, and he wants to see England win in India. "There is a massive difference," he said. "To see England win in Australia was better than becoming No.1. But it is nice to be No.1. India have not shown up. We have got to beat them in India. That will be a big series win. We have got to win away from home; those are the hard yards. We go halfway around the world to watch England play. So for me the away victory carries a lot of meaning." The Andrews in the England team - Flower and Strauss - better listen.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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