Thursday, 30 July 2015

Our trip to Edgbaston

I have never been to Edgbaston before. It has had a reputation for being England's loudest and most patriotic ground. It has a reputation for being raucous. It has a reputation for being intimidating for visiting sides. It was all of those, and the Hollies Stand where we were, was rocking. I loved the place, I thought the ground was excellent, the people were magnificent and it was real. None of the artificial hype of some grounds, none of the snootiness, this was the heartbeat of English support, in the heart of England, and the players responded accordingly.

Our journey didn't start well with trains cancelled out of Euston. A quick hop to Marylebone and a journey into Moor Street instead of New Street. Middle Stump contributor Thorpster had booked in first class for a mere £33, but on this trip we couldn't take advantage of this, and the free breakfast that came with it. Thinking on our feet, we arrived in Britain's second city, and found the worst cafe in the world. A builders cafe, the proprietor asked us to wait a moment as she finished her fag. Anaemic sausages, a runny egg and bacon from a pig whose entire life tasted as if it had spent its years in a salt mine were taken in for a measly £4. It was overpriced!

Seeing the queues for the shuttle bus, we decided to jump in a taxi and the Moeen Ali look a like driver got halfway up the Pershore Road before advising us to jump out due to the traffic leading to the ground.

The approach to the ground

Dodging the touts, and fighting through the marijuana fumes outside we eventually arrived to be greeted by an imposing modern blue frontage with Ian Bell on the front. Edgbaston looked impressive, and after a quick moving queue, we were inside it. Almost immediately, we spotted Glenn McGrath. He is huge. On television he looks as if he has a much meat on him as a jockey's whip, but in real life he is a big boy. My mate told him "that there would be no 5-0 in this series, Glenn" to which even he turned around and chuckled.

We took our seats in the Hollies and already in the first over there was drama as Warner was almost on his way back to the hutch before the ball was bowled. The Aussies were camped to our left in the end which all cricket fans hope is eventually named after Warwickshire and England star Ian Bell! Warner was soon out properly and the Hollies sang their first "cheerio".

Incidentally the Hollies has nothing to do with the group from the sixties, of whom the boys from the Middle Stump played against their guitarist Terry Sylvester back in the day; and not a bad medium pacer either. It was named after the bloke who made Don Bradman's Test average under a hundred by bowling him for 0 in his last game.

The Hollies choir find their voice

Finny came on and roughed the Aussies up. The Hollies choir got louder and when Anderson bowled an inspired spell the chorus of "Oh Jimmy, Jimmy" rang out. The rains fell, the ground got colder but refreshments at £4.20 a pint were sunk. Aussies and English chatted amicably outside, as their teams fought a battle in the arena. The action, due to the rain may have been slightly staccato to use a musical term, but the tempo and gusto when the teams were out there was worth the admission fee alone.

After lunch, down the road at a Fish and Chip shop next to a rather dubious looking establishment called the Edgbaston Tap, England turned the screw. Only Rogers was defiant for the visitors as he quietly accumulated, hanging back in his crease yet transferring his balance beautifully when he needed to. The queues for the bar grew longer, as in turn did the queues for the gents. Now it all gets a bit hazy towards the final session, as the Pale Ale kicked in. Jimmy finished with six, Bell the local hero got a fifty and when Johnson misfielded the Hollies roared. Regularly reminding him that his radar when releasing the ball may be slightly askew, the place rocked. I have never heard an English ground like it.

Our view from the Hollies

The size of the beer snakes increased with the noise levels too. Well done to the stewards who watched and smiled. Other grounds please take note. People are only having fun. One last shower came down in the evening gloom and sent the hordes packing back down the Pershore Road. After checking in to a curry house near New Street called the Royal Bengal, rammed with cricket fans we spoke of Jimmy, and the atmosphere as popadoms were broken and washed down with a large Cobra beer. A Madras which was vindaloo-esque by London standards arrived and wolfed down before another delayed train journey back to London resulted in me hitting my bed at 1am, having awoken at 5am.

Despite a six hour round trip, nothing could take away my smile of a great day out. Edgbaston was everything it lived up to be and more. Jimmy, Finny, England, the people, the atmosphere and the city made it. Birmingham may not be the prettiest place, but yesterday it was the heartbeat of English cricket. You can see why England love playing here as they had their best Ashes day since bowling the Aussies out for 98 in Melbourne.

I, for one bloody well loved it.

1 comment:

  1. Good piece.

    Personally, Edgbaston isn't for me, but I think that the point about the Test grounds in this country (and I've done then all from Trent Bridge south) is that they are all a bit different in pitch, shape, size, atmosphere, and that's part of the character of the game.

    Cardiff small and friendly, Lords the tradition, Edgbaston the noise, Trent Bridge a bit of all three, and the Oval, to paraphrase John Arlott, 'full of Cockney swagger'.