Rain ... it's what the fans want
Pints of beer were swilled and raucous singing broke out in the concourse of the sweeping new OCS stand at The Oval on Saturday, as heavy rain hampered play on the third day of the final Ashes Test.
Resplendent in their white pith helmets, each emblazoned with a St George's Cross, the design of England's national flag, Rob Cousins and his six friends seemed to capture the unusually positive reaction to the wet weather, recognising that it might help England win back the Ashes for the first time since 1987.
"I don't mind the rain at all - in fact I hope it rains for the next two days as well," said the 38-year-old company director. "I would actually trade my ticket in to guarantee rain just as long as it doesn't rain on Tuesday when the England team has its open-top bus parade through London," he added, referring to the celebratory tour planned in the event of England winning the five-match series.
Matt Wiseman, one of five well-lubricated young Robins in a group dressed as the comic-book characters Batman and Robin, echoed this cold-eyed take on the two-hour rain delay that all but wiped out the afternoon session. "We got our tickets for 50 pounds and at that price you don't care if it rains," said the 26-year-old accountant from Clapham in south London. "Even if I'd got my ticket for 500 hundred pounds I wouldn't mind."
"If you look at the [drawn] third Test at Old Trafford, we would have won that if it hadn't been for the rain," said David Beare, one of the five dressed as Batman and a senior cost manager at Heathrow Airport. "In fact, I'd rather we won the Ashes back because of the rain because that will annoy the Australians even more!"
Rob Williams, dressed as Robin, had a more principled take on the summer-long battle for the urn, which England currently leads. "I want us to win it properly," said the 25-year-old, who works in the advertising department of the News of the World newspaper. "In fact I think they should introduce a reserve day for games like these where a lot of time is lost to rain."
The older generation of cricket fans seemed to agree with the importance of the game being played rather than falling foul of the elements. "You'd rather see some entertainment," said Joe Drake, a retired teacher from Earsham in Norfolk, north-east of London. "I've been thinking maybe I should have stayed at home and watched it on the television."
Peter Lee, from Norwich, also in Norfolk, was similarly disappointed with the loss of play despite its positive implications for the England team. "You want to see some cricket when you come along - the people who want it to rain aren't true cricket fans."
Ray Groves, from Sydney, gave a less opinionated and surprisingly more magnanimous view from Down Under. "I'm just happy to be here and watching an Ashes series," said the 29-year-old teacher who flew over especially for the final Test. "If we lose the Ashes because of the rain there will be no bitterness as the weather is part of the game - you have to accept it.
"This is what it's all about - just being here and soaking up the atmosphere." But, despite these generous opinions on the Ashes of 2005, Groves couldn't resist a gentle, and obligatory, reminder of times past. "We've been the top side for so long there will be no sour grapes if the rain denies us victory this time."