England v West Indies, Lord's 2000 April 18, 2010

That golden Saturday

Ten years ago Lord's hosted a classic, when the crowd roared the staid ground to life and England to a win

For years my poor dad had been shelling out for tickets for the Saturday of the Lord's Test, only for the rain to fall, Australian tailenders to reveal hidden talents or England to dolefully, predictably, implode.

But on Saturday July 1, 2000, we watched just the greatest day's cricket, perhaps not strictly in terms of skill, but in febrile atmosphere and sheer joy.

We were nearly all there, my dad, three brothers (one soon to marry), two uncles, one aunt and four cousins, all knees together, with cheese sandwiches, red chicken, damp lettuce, Eccles cakes, white wine and fat newspaper supplements that balanced, then disappeared, down the back of the white flip-up chairs.

The ground was packed. They'd queued from before seven with picnics, cushions, blazers, scorecards, pacamacs and umbrellas. The atmosphere? Nervous. On the Friday, Caddick, Cork and Gough had bowled West Indies out for 54 and England were now left to score 188, but on a still seaming pitch and against Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose, both playing their final Tests at Lord's.

The ground still had a reputation for staidness. But this was the day the crowd shook off their chains. As England squeezed closer, a sort of mass hysteria crept over us all. Every run was roared, every block, miss, survival. Superstition blossomed both in the crowd and on the balcony, binoculars trained on Matthew Hoggard, on Test debut, last man in, showed a man facing the guillotine.

A win seemed impossible, unlikely, when Ramprakash fell for 2. Ambrose beat Atherton again and again, but somehow he and Vaughan crept to a partnership of 90-odd, until Walsh snaffled them both. Neither Hick, Stewart, White or Knight could do quite enough, and at 160 for 8 all that spent emotion seemed to have been wasted.

But there was still Cork, with a swagger to his walk and some va-va-voom up his sleeve. A six off Franklyn Rose, a four off Walsh, ratcheted up the atmosphere, and he and Gough - a walk-on-part - pushed towards the target until, at last, Cork triumphantly drove Walsh through the covers. And it was over.

The crowd, punch drunk, wandered down to an outfield suddenly bathed in midsummer sunshine. A thousand flashbulbs went off. England were on their way to regaining the Wisden trophy for the first time in 27 years. A golden day.

Tanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ross on April 19, 2010, 17:35 GMT

    It was a great day. I'd been regretting not getting a ticket for the Friday, which uniquely, had a bit of all four innings but the Saturday was tremendous. It exemplified why Test cricket is king. Every ball had incredible tension, and I don't think there is another sport that can maintain such tension over so long a period. Every time the pressure eased, a wicket fell, and it was an brilliant nerve-wracked atmosphere. You had to hang on till the end of the over to take a breath! In the context of being a year after England's nadir, that debacle against New Zealand, the significance of the victory was huge. It was the start of an ascent for England that culminated at the Oval five years later with the Ashes. Unfortunately, for the Windies it was the start of a slide from which they still haven't recovered.

  • Christy on April 19, 2010, 10:12 GMT

    @ demon_bolwer - "the end of 15 years or more of cricketing mediocrity" - did mediocrity for the English cricket really end then ... ?

  • Clive on April 18, 2010, 20:47 GMT

    That match was the real beginning of the Hussain-Fletcher partnership and the end of 15 years or more of cricketing mediocrity for England. It was an enthralling game and a fitting match for the 100th test to be staged at Lord's.

  • Michael on April 18, 2010, 14:23 GMT

    There may have been roaring for each run and each block in the last 30-40 minutes, but what I most remember about the day was the tense silence. Even the usual hum of conversation was stilled. Talking in the stands, the crowd seemed to feel, was liable to disturb the concentration of the England batsmen. Superstition reigned: the first time one of my group went to the bar to get drinks, a wicket fell, so thereafter no-one was allowed to leave their seat unless a wicket had just fallen and there was time to buy drinks while the new batsman made his way to the crease and took guard.

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