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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
One amazing day
By Francis Keogh
With the English fans at Edgbaston

For spectators who forked out 30 or so months ago for tickets to the fourth day of the second Ashes test, Sunday looked destined to be an anti-climax.

With Australia on the ropes, needing more than 100 runs to win and just two wickets left, there appeared little life left in the match.

A couple of overs, maybe only a couple of balls, and that's all folks. Thanks for coming.

Instead, supporters had the chance to savour - or should that be endure - 99 minutes of high sporting drama.

Our man in the Eric Hollies Stand looks back on an epic at Edgbaston.

THE COUNTDOWN...1020 BST

A surreal air surrounds the Birmingham ground. Three men dressed as England cricket icon WG Grace enter the scene, followed by 16 surgeons and a vicar.

TOP FANCY-DRESS OUTFITS
'Lady Godiva' (Flesh-coloured number - don't ask!)
Umpire David Shepherd (Complete with pillow for belly)
Dusty Bin (Bin lid on head - container round body)
Ringo Starr (In Sergeant Pepper uniform)
It's a fancy dress cricket carnival, as a double decker bus purporting to represent Portuguese cricket goes past, playing calypso sounds against a backdrop of bat-wielding cricketers with false moustaches.

Ticket touts do a brisk trade despite the prospect of the game being over within minutes. One punter happily hands over 100 for a 40 ticket.

The seller proclaims "The Aussies can turn this one round" but no-one really believes him, not even the green and yellow-clad group known as the Australian Fanatics bunched at the Pavilion End.

OPENING EXCHANGES...1040

Each delivery provides justification for being there. One over, six balls - that's 5 a shot. Not so bad.

Unusually, every vantage point in the ground seems to have been taken up by the 1030 starting time.

This is clearly not a day to be stuck in traffic, and miss England finishing off the old enemy.

A few overs pass, but there is little drama - the total is simply too big for a bunch of tail-enders to reach.

NERVES - PART ONE...1100

The Aussies can't do it, can they? Can they?

Expectant self-confidence has been replaced by more familiar doubts as Shane Warne digs in.

If we heard once that Warney had made two county centuries for Hampshire this season, we heard it a hundred times.

The winning target is now below 70, and the rollercoaster of emotions is on a downward dip as past English frailties exercise the mind.

RELIEF - PART ONE...1107

The bar is open, the beers have arrived, and Warne has tumbled in the most bizarre way.

A good two minutes after what appeared a classic Flintoff stump-rattler, the big screens show the big Aussie had trod back on his wicket.

Cue delirious scenes in the stands as Australia's last big hope, a source of sleazy tabloid stories all summer about his busy private life, exits to unkind strains of 'Where's your missus gone?'

NERVES - PART TWO...1145

We're informed Brett Lee has a Test fifty in his locker, and the Aussies are scoring runs for fun.

As their target decreases, the increasingly vocal Fanatics count down the numbers in buoyant mood.

Boisterous fans in the Eric Hollies Stand had earlier been belting out raucous renditions of the English 'Barmy Army' anthem.

There had even been a curious ode to Steve Harmison, sung to the tune of Come on Eileen: 'Harmy, too-ra-too-ra-too-loo rye aye."

Now there was silence as the ugly truth descended on nervy England fans. Defeat is approaching, and we are witnessing one of the most embarrassing turnarounds in sporting history.

A dropped catch with 14 runs needed adds to the sense of grim inevitability.

RELIEF - PART TWO...1209

TOP ENGLAND SONGS
Australia captain Ricky Ponting reflects on an agonising defeat
'You should have batted first' (To tune of Blue Moon. Aimed at Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting)
'We're gonna win four-one' (Same tune)
'Super, super Fred, super Freddie Flintoff'
'They're coming home, they're coming - Ashes coming home'

Come on Harmison. Come on Stevie. Come on England. This is crunch time.

One edge to the slips and victory is secured. One over the top, and the Aussies have sealed the mother and father of all comebacks.

As Harmison thunders in, the whole series stands on a knife-edge, and English sportsmen don't have a great record in such winner-takes-all showdowns.

A brief hush, then a mighty cheer.

The players rush to each other and there is a wait of seconds, that seems minutes, before the umpire's finger is raised.

England have won, and two ladies who quite probably remember the Bodyline Ashes are dancing in the aisles.

They've done it. We've won, with just two runs in it.

Mobile phones buzz with delight as a grateful nation passes on their congratulations.

It was never in doubt.

PARTY TIME...1230

The sun is shining and the most eagerly-anticipated Ashes series for years is alive again.

Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting gamely puts a brave face on his side's proud resistance, but the home fans are an unforgiving bunch.

There are ironic cheers as he refers to his costly decision to make England bat first after winning the toss.

Jubilant captain Michael Vaughan salutes the crowd, who respond in kind, and he introduces man-of-the-match Andrew Flintoff. The noise could almost be heard in Coventry

As we exit, a bizarre cricket match is unfolding in the Edgbaston car park, with a wicker picnic basket and empty plastic beer glasses constructed into a wicket.

The batsman's Sherlock Holmes, the bowler's Lawrence of Arabia. Lord Nelson and Dennis the Menace are among the slip cordon.

A man dressed in yellow takes the ball. A lemon entry, my dear Watson.

AFTERMATH...1330

At Sir Harry's pub, just a long hop from the ground, the fancy dress brigade have moved into the beer garden.

There is some good-natured banter between the Aussies and English, as a tunnel of spectators cheer the impromptu match.

A lad called Jake, who can't have witnessed a day quite like this before, runs into a gigantic roar as he beams one down at a portly character who looks uncannily like Queen Victoria. Dusty Bin has now taken up residency as the wicket.

It was a day that had truly spanned the generations.




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