Summer sun, something's begun
There was something in the air at Edgbaston, besides the dampness and the familiar scent of ripe lager. Assisted by a lush pitch, a touch of swing, snappy fielding and ear-splitting support from the Eric Hollies stand, Gough and Caddick had carved the Aussies up on day one. It was 1997, the first Test of the summer, and England were winning.
Nervous tension was written on the faces of all those filing into the ground on Friday morning. Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe were set, but theirs was a tightrope act. Surely reality would soon reassert itself. England just didn't win these games. Raucous, boisterous and a little sozzled in places, the Edgbaston crowd were still transfixed by the cricket, just as sensitive to the action.
It was Hussain's day. Yes, Shane Warne was bowling garbage and Jason Gillespie could barely walk, but it was Hussain's day. The only double-hundred I have witnessed live, his innings was a measured, patient picking apart of a faltering attack. Cover-drives, pull-hooks, square-drives on the move, leg glances; every shot executed with wiry, muscular orthodoxy, the billowing of his ragged cut-off sleeves lending him the air of a clean-cut hero from a pirate film, duelling bravely but by the book.
On 188 he hit Warne for three precise boundaries, to midwicket, to long-on, and then, picking the flipper, neatly through backward point. By now the crowd were jubilant and Hussain, the most intense of cricketers, allowed himself a smile, acknowledging the pandemonium on the terraces with sloped shoulders and a bashful wave of the bat.
The curtains came down with an hour to go. Going home, big fat jolly raindrops spattered the windscreen. None of us had been drinking, but we all had silly grins on our faces. Could this be the year?
Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England