England's Ashes celebrations September 13, 2005

Party time in London

Andrew McGlashan's Roving Reporter from England's Ashes celebrations at Trafalgar Square



England's players milk the applause © Getty Images

How do you celebrate regaining the Ashes after 16 years? Have a party, of course, and invite over 25,000 of the friends you have made during the summer. It has been a long, nerve-jangling journey and no-one who took part, watched or covered it will ever forget such a stunning series. The scenes in Trafalgar Square were a fully earned moment for the England players to bask in their victory glow and for the rest of us to release the tension of the last two months.

Just as at The Oval, during the last five tension-filled days, every possible vantage point was taken along the route of England's open-top bus tour and at Trafalgar Square. Roof tops were again a popular location, although the terraces on top of the National Gallery and various embassies were slightly safer options than some of pitched roofs near the ground yesterday.

Building work was again brought to a shuddering halt where any glimpse of the parade could be had. The British economy must have taken a hit during the last seven weeks with the number of extended lunches and sickies, which have become codewords for 'I'm watching the Ashes'. And it was a similar story in Central London today as thousands flocked out of their offices to wave and cheer the England stars.

English sport may not have brought many reasons for wild celebration in recent years but when the British public has had the chance they have grasped it in style. The outpouring of national joy today matched those which greeted the rugby team when they returned from Australia with the World Cup. The chance to celebrate the cricket team bringing home the Ashes was one not to be missed.



A new kind of cricket follower © Getty Images
Some fans had been arriving from the early hours and by the time the two team buses arrived - the England Women also celebrated their Ashes victory - they were in fine voice. That is more than can be said for some of the players. Very little sleep had been had during the night - none in some cases - and it was beginning to tell. "I'm struggling to be honest," admitted Andrew Flintoff. But the nation loves them more for being like that - playing it hard and fair on the field, being normal people off it.

This Ashes series has introduced a whole new mass of fans to the game and they were all in evidence as Jerusalem was given repeated renditions. Young children - who only know a successful England team - and those who have been through the rough times too mixed with people who just wanted to be here. "I don't know if I will always follow cricket like I have this summer," said Chris, decked out in flags of St George, "But this is a moment for the nation to enjoy."

It has been a long time coming for the public - and players - and everyone is going to milk this moment. And any chance to further rub the Australian noses in it is also not being passed up. "Buy your England car stickers here," proclaimed one souvenir seller, "then drive around the Australian embassy all day."

The Australian team may have been heading to Heathrow airport by the most direct route possible - and the coach driver obviously resisted the temptation to take a detour through Trafalgar Square - but still some Aussies don't know when they are beaten. I was sure there was an Antipodean accent behind me as the crowds flock in and, sure enough, there was. "If you can't beat them, join them," Mark, an Aussie living in London, ruefully said, "But for all this talk of the 'greatest series', I would have taken a cakewalk for Australia at this point!"

While the crowds cheered - whether honestly or through gritted teeth - the players lapped up every moment. Flintoff, ever the showman, managed to rouse himself for long enough to send the masses into roars of appreciation each time he stepped forward. There was even a special cheer for Gary Pratt, which was nearly loud enough to remind Ponting, by now safely in the departures lounge, of that vital moment at Trent Bridge.

But the final word can go to a player. Although it is unlikely to win an award, Simon Jones succinctly summed up what has gone on in the last seven weeks: "We've done 'em, we've done 'em now."

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo