Happy new era
Chris Jordan ran and jumped. England followed. The team balcony hugged. The fans cheered. England had won a Test. Within three days. With heavy rain. Against a team that beat them two Tests ago. The spontaneous dance of joy was definitely called for.
But this had to feel better, because people were there. And not just a knowledgeable fifth-day crowd who have managed to get off the junction in time, but a crowd who are drunk and happy. Cookie Monster and pirates. The Barmy Army in full voice.
If you are taking nine wickets in a session to win a Test, you want to do it with a full crowd behind you. At times this series, it's as if the Barmy Army were on mute. They fell asleep at Trent Bridge. They were beaten up at Lord's. They probably got lost on the way to the Ageas Bowl. But here, they were loud and proud. Each wicket meant another 10 people seemed to get up with them. They used old songs well, and new songs badly. They are still adjusting to the new era.
The crowd of 17,200 were the kind of crowd who didn't seem to know who Giles Clarke was. They were what clubs like to call "near capacity". The kind of crowd that just loved supporting the home team. The sort who cheered KP last year, and wouldn't have read many pieces about why he wasn't there this year. They cheered each and every one of their players. They love their captain. They are the Saturday crowd. If you just wanted unadulterated support while you ended India's Test match, this was the crowd you picked.
If you were a new era player, this was the sort of crowd you spent the last couple of years watching the senior guys enjoy on TV.
The new era guys were the ones who enjoyed the victory the most. Joe Root didn't miss a single part of the crowd to salute. Moeen Ali and Sam Robson enjoyed the awkwardest of high fives, and giggled manically. Gary Ballance fist pumped like no one was watching. And Jordan is probably still jumping. While they celebrated, the old era players who weren't in hospital enjoyed the win quietly and walked off the ground to shake hands with the opposition. Behind them the new era boys continued to jump and touch each other excitedly.
They continued to be excited as MS Dhoni gave his press conference. In some ways, Dhoni press conferences never truly end, they just take small breaks while the cricket happens. If you wanted the opposite of young men happy to be alive, it would be a Dhoni post-defeat press conference. He said things like "It's all about converting those starts to big innings," and, "It doesn't matter if you lose a game in three or five days, if you lose a game, you lose the game."
He literally said "60 overs is a very big target" while men poured beer on each other and backroom staff planned the exact topless nightclub schedule a floor below.
The backroom support staff, the butt of almost as many jokes as there are backroom staff, also kept celebrating, some rushing down to shake the hands of every one of the players as they came off. There is no doubt that wherever he is right now, David Saker is still smiling uncontrollably. He probably will be until the Oval Test starts.
Even Alastair Cook talked about going out and having fun. Cook said that. The same Cook that two Tests back looked haunted by cricket. The same Cook that seemed close to being fired. England are only 2-1 up. But it seems like only the actual apocalypse could save India from losing this series.
It didn't matter if you held a clipboard, a ball or a beer, this was exactly what the new era was supposed to be. Wins with wide new grins.