That golden Saturday

The England team on the balcony as Cork hits the winning run Paul McGregor / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

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.