Sunday saw the final match of the England ODI series against some blokes dressed up in yellow kit. They claimed to be from Down Under, however based on some of their performances over the past fortnight, I reckon they’re just a bunch of mates on an all-inclusive holiday, which unfortunately features them having to play some cricket. Because Australia were shit. Woefully, woefully poor. They had about as much chance winning the series as the England footy team have bringing home the World Cup. Although according to many newspapers, that’s exactly what is going to happen… Having unpicked their ineptitude in previous articles, I thought in Part 8, I’d guide you through a day at the cricket. And because I had the privilege of being at Old Trafford on Sunday, you can trust exactly how the day progressed.

I Wake Up To The Sound Of Music

Preparing for a day at the cricket is like setting forth on an exciting expedition. Firstly there’s the customary check prior to leaving the house. Sun cream? Check. Sexy England cap? Debatable, but check. Gallons of water? Check. Pencil for the scorecard? Check. Picnic lunch which will no doubt be warm by the time it comes to the interval? Check. Slinging on aviator sunglasses over a face ready to shine bright like a juicy tomato and you’re ready to rock ‘n roll.

There’s always a sense of anticipation in the air as you stroll nearer and nearer to a sports venue. Be it a premier league stadia, or greyhound track, the hairs on the back of your neck gently tingle as the ground hovers into view. Like a spaceship appearing from the heavens, Emirates Old Trafford is particularly impressive. As a Lancs season ticket holder myself, I’m well used to the routine of reaching the stadium. What I’m not used to is more than fifty people likewise milling around. For county championship matches it’s quiet, peaceful. A sense of serenity in the air.

Not so for England. Jesus, there were people everywhere. Families, couples, lads in flowery shirts (put my top to shame); old, young, thin, fat… alright mainly fat. Anyway you get the picture. Surrounded by eager faces, only increased the expectation. That is until everybody who had printed home tickets found the scanner wasn’t working and were shepherded into a half hour ticket office queue. Grumbles of discontent began. But I was calm; this was the advantage of arriving over an hour before start of play. Nothing was going to stop my enjoyment. The sound of the teams being announced was like music to my ears. This was England.

Mother Mary Comes To Me

Part of the excitement comes in the guise of spotting ex-players. On the outfield before play began there was Aggers, Michael Vaughan, Mike Atherton, Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist… the list went on and on. Swathes of cameramen were poised for the teams to emerge; spider cam zoomed overhead; Jerusalem blared out. Led by Morgan England emerged to a chorus of cheers, whilst Aaron Finch and Travis Head nervously made their way to the middle.

A packed house held its breath for the first ball. Seven overs later and the Aussies were breathing a little easier. Travis Head was dynamic in his early stroke play, sending debutant Sam Curran all-round the park. Like a bull facing a red flag, Australia was angry. This was their only chance left to escape with some dignity. All this way to be whitewashed was not going to happen, not under Head’s watchful eye. Silence the crowd, silence the bowlers. Who were Jake Ball and Curran anyway? Just substandard replacements given a run out by this cocky England side. Australia reached 60-0 with absolute ease.

Yep. It didn’t last. From 60-2 the Aussies collapsed to 205. With wickets taken at regular intervals the crowd went from silent, to full bloodied raucousness. Moeen Ali’s chant reverberated around the ground. Snaffling 4-46, Mo bowled tightly, never allowing Stoinis and Marsh a chance. We had lightning stumping reactions by Buttler, a suicidal run out and the most embarrassing leave since Britain voted for Brexit. This one innings summed up Australia over the past four matches. Some bright sparks, but overall as wispy as the hairs on the head of Nathan Lyon. Who, for the drunk bloke in our row’s sake, looked less E.T and more Dopey from Snow White. He should be feeling bashful after that performance.

Speaking Words Of Wisdom

Mind you, England in sympathy with their yellow comrades, collapsed to 50-5 and 114-8. All of a sudden what appeared a fairly routine victory had been given some extra spice by the imposing figure of Billy Stanlake. Standing at 7 feet tall, Billy roared in with fire in his eyes. Hitting the deck hard he clean bowled Bairstow and Morgan. Supported by a couple from Kane Richardson, which included a golden duck for Liam Plunkett, Billy brought fighting spirit to the limp roos. Like a shot of whiskey he shocked Australia into action.

Until Buttler served up a treat. Words are beginning to fail me when it comes to our Jos. Over the past six weeks he has gone from bludgeoning bowlers in the IPL, to calmly digging in at test level, to cleverly knocking over Australia. Talk about having a cricketing brain! The guy is starting to become a genius, when it comes to playing the situation. Needing over 90 runs, with just two wickets remaining, Buttler recognised the importance of rotating the strike with Rashid. Six overs went by without a boundary. The party stand became more interested in knocking an inflatable water melon about. Which to be fair was incredibly funny. Particularly when the wind caught the object and rolled onto the outfield; much to the embarrassed steward’s dismay. Sacked in the morning became the cry. Great banter.

Let It Be

In gradually building the ninth wicket partnership, the tension became extreme. With plenty of overs left, the issue became wickets. Especially when Rashid skied one to square leg. 11 runs were needed as Jake Ball tiptoed to the crease. In possibly his greatest innings yet, Ball contributed just 1 of those runs, but his defence was beautiful. Every ball solidly held off brought an almighty cheer. The inner field was tightly packed; Agar suddenly spat demons. But still Ball battled through an entire over of spin. Balls of steel that one.

When Buttler brought up his hundred with an almighty six the crowd acclaimed. When he stroked the winning four through the covers, Old Trafford erupted. One of the greatest ODI innings of all time. Buttler was absolutely superb. England whitewashed the enemy.

Cricket is great isn’t it? Let it be.