England v Australia, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 5th day August 25, 2013

Light fades on Oval party

It was a celebration of England. A celebration for Test cricket. It was loud. It was fun. It was nonsensical.
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David Warner made his way to the boundary and the crowd cheered. Then they gave him the Rocky theme song. Then they chanted "Warner, Warner give us a punch." Then Dave Warner scratched his backside and the crowd cheered.

The last day of the Ashes crowd was essentially like being in a T20 crowd where people actually understood the game.

People who have never screamed wide in their life, screamed at a ball slightly wide of off stump. People who only ever clap politely raised their hands above their heads. Spontaneous cheering took over normal human beings. Leg byes made people shriek. If there was a fancy dress booth behind the pavilion, the members would have hired batman costumes and danced on the balcony. Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott were told to get on with it. Kevin Pietersen's arrival was celebrated like Elvis's second coming.

It was not like a normal day of Test cricket in almost any way. It was like Test cricket had a pulse and meant something deeply. One guy ripped his shirt off at an Australian wicket. Forget politeness and muted enjoyment, this was a party. The England fans were here to party with their boys.

The Australia fans sat lifeless in one area, like wallflowers at a school dance. Their faces had 3-0, and for a time probably 4-0, written all over them. Their wallets had been worked over, their national identity had been worked over and now they had to sit at the party while the other team enjoyed every single minute. There was not a smile between them.

The rest of the crowd enjoyed every shot, booed every attempt at Australia slowing down the game and couldn't believe their luck that they were about to see an amazing win that almost none of them could have believed would happen. They were probably so excited, they never even noticed the light fade. Until the lights in the pavilion became obvious, there was no need too.

Then the party was stopped, as if the police said the music was too loud. No one agreed.

The way the crowd had formed into a cheering single entity that was intent on a good time, you could have been forgiven for thinking a riot was about to happen. Instead a lot of booing and literally a handful of empty plastic beer cups were thrown at no one in particular. Between the boos the crowd made the sound of confusion, which is hard to describe, but you know it when 20,000 people do it at once.

The umpires were booed as they walked off and then booed as they got their awards. Aleem Dar waved at them. The match referee was booed as well. As was the third and fourth umpire. If the umpires had a mascot, it also would have been booed.

The ground was still virtually full, except where the Australians had left. Those Aussies who remained sat in a tight group. Safety in very small numbers.

Shane Watson receiving the Man-of the-Match award was booed. It was hard to know why. When Mike Atherton announced Warner, there was more booing. But Warner had earned it. Atherton tried his best to educate the mob about the light rulings from a stage not facing half of them with slightly delayed audio. Surprisingly it didn't work.

Then Michael Clarke was booed. And then clapped. Even on a day you saw him try and drag the umpires off for bad light, he's still not the villain Ricky Ponting was for opposition fans.

Then Alastair Cook was booed. It wasn't a personal thing. He just tried to defend the umpires, and that was a no go area, even if you had just won the Ashes.

There was far more clapping of course. Sometimes during the boos. Sometimes just after. The players were cheered for each medal. They were cheered for each gesture. People cheered for the fireworks (which would have only been useful in conditions this dark). People cheered for champagne. People cheered as the players walked around the ground with their kids. People cheered for cheering's sake.

If you were watching on TV you wouldn't have understood it. You had to be there. See the excitement. Hear the noise. Feel the party. It was Test cricket at its very best. The crowd cheered. The crowd booed. The crowd were entertained.

It was a party. An Ashes party. A Test match party. A celebration of England. A celebration for Test cricket. It was loud. It was fun. It was nonsensical. It was cricket.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Green_and_Gold on August 28, 2013, 8:58 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster - Test cricket is simply the best format of cricket. It is where legends are born. ODI and T20 cricket is entertaining (and i dont mean to take anything away from them) but there is nothing special about them. To sit and watch an ashes match over 5 days, to see how a batsman makes a gritty ton when his team is in trouble, to watch the tactics and to see how a game can ebb and flow is brilliant - if it comes down to the final session and all 3 results are on offer - thats just the best (its not just cause its played like T20 cause you dont have the build up of the last 4 days) . A T20 does not offer that. Watching a bowler bowl 2 overs then come off does not allow that person to execute their skill of setting up a batsman - and same with a batsman trying to have a strike rate of 100+ - in fact you are being ripped off cause you are not seeing all the skill players have to offer. I certainly hope that Test cricket is here to stay!

  • dummy4fb on August 27, 2013, 9:52 GMT

    As a cricket fan who enjoys all three formats of the game I can happily say that each format has a different appeal but tests are not about to get swept under the carpet and forgotten about. Take the last ashes - does anyone remember anything about any of the ODIs or the T20s without checking cricinfo? Australia or England in India over the last year - again can anyone remember anything other than the Tests? The fact is test cricket can provide all manner or scenarios over a 5 day period and that is what makes it so absorbing. In a one day match you usually have a pretty good idea on who will win by the end of the 1st innings if not before

  • warnerbasher on August 27, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    Not related to the above article of course but today is the birthdate of the greatest batsman(by a country mile) of them all.

  • Cpt.Meanster on August 27, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    I think this article by Kimber provides us a prophetical vision as to why test cricket will die out in the next few years and T20 will rule the game. Even the so called TEST cricket is interesting ONLY when it is played like T20 or an ODI. I hope some of the old test cricket romantics finally begin to see the truth. It also goes to show the true interests of fans, they LOVE limited overs cricket OR pro-active cricket rather. Traditional test cricket is like a snail-fest; it bores folks, well most of them in a large part of the world, and it simply isn't interesting. Time to move on dear test cricket.

  • BillyBlue on August 26, 2013, 17:55 GMT

    Huh! Its funny how the crowd behavior here is portrayed & almost glorified as passionate & carnival like, but how do u think similar crowd behaviors in the subcontinent have been portrayed as, in the past? Some words that come to kind are unsportsman like, partisan, petty, not gracious, inconsiderate, my fav 'not in the spirit of the game', etc. Yes there have been a few rotten eggs in the sub continent, particularly in India, but never has an article been wriiten about an ordinary celebration at best, being rehashed & presented as the health & vibrancy of test cricket in the nation. What a bunch of hog wash.

  • NCP1 on August 26, 2013, 17:54 GMT

    All this excitement because Clarke decided to throw a challenge much like Gary Sobers would have done. Cook or any English Captain would have never done that and survived. Goes to show that One day type cricket is more popular. Never understand why we carry on playing two innings in a test in moern era instead of one inning in three days, it would still generate the same interest and test the same skills and save two days to play more interesting games.

  • KingOwl on August 26, 2013, 14:13 GMT

    So, according to Jarrod, this was a great game of test cricket because the atmosphere was like during a T20. Isn't that a bit sad, really?

  • dummy4fb on August 26, 2013, 12:25 GMT

    I couldn't have chosen a better first time to attend a test match live.. One line sums up the day best: "The last day of the Ashes crowd was essentially like being in a T20 crowd where people actually understood the game."

  • David_Jockel on August 26, 2013, 10:59 GMT

    great article. forget about all this talk of whether or not we are in the middle of a great era in english cricket. we are definitely in the middle of a great era of english language CRICKET WRITING. hats of to cricinfo.

  • dummy4fb on August 26, 2013, 8:23 GMT

    And i was told BARMY ARMY is the best crowd in the world ..EMM not after last night show sorry ..

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