The way the crowd cheered any run-making shot, you’d think they’d just been told over the PA that Prince Charles had dropped dead and the Crown would pass straight to Prince William.
Even a solid defensive shot brought the response you’d expect from a northern England crowd if Boris Johnson had just announced that the European Union had declared that the UK could Brexit with all the benefits of Bremaining.
A tickle around the corner for a single? Surely the roar of approval meant Jeremy Corbyn has just apologised for being Jeremy Corbyn and a Jew-hating Commie and had quit politics?
England cricket crowds are a bit like that, although two leftie friends from Glasgow were at the ground on the third day, not that that balanced things up much.
Cricket is still largely a toffs’ game. A bit like the way you can count Labor-leaning Aussie Test cricketers in the modern era on the fingers of a retired butcher’s left hand.
But back to all of this exaltation early on in proceedings on the fourth day of the Headingley Test. And that was just the crowd’s delirious response as Ben Stokes (pictured at top enjoying a celebratory drink in a Leeds pub after the Test ended) and Jonny Bairstow settled things down after the early departure of captain Joe Root.
I toddled off to bed at the lunch break and I’m kinda glad I missed Stokes’s later efforts as he powered the Poms to victory and kept the Ashes series alive with probably the finest innings ever by an Englishman.
Pre-lunch, both batsmen looked absolutely determined to be there at the end and the Aussie pacemen were wasting the new ball by bowling such absolute shit you could be forgiven for thinking they had a bet on the outcome.
Lyon ripped a few just before the break to give me hope that I’d wake up to news of an Aussie victory and a rare Ashes series win at the centre of empire. I thought it a 50-50 proposition despite the record run-chase the Poms faced.
But in the cold light of morning, I’m spewing to read that they were nine down and still some 70 runs shy of victory – and that only one bloke with enormous self-belief and amazing skills was determined to keep his side in the series.
Make no mistake. Australia does not have an all-rounder anywhere near Stokes’ ability. He might become just one of the greatest ever.
This bloke makes his own luck. He knew he had to hit a few sixes in an over to eventually help England to their recent World Cup victory and he did it. It’s as if he knew that fielder would step over the rope as he took the catch or that the ball skidding back from the outfield would hit his bat and run off down to the boundary and the umpires would fuck up the call.
Same at Headingley. Straight hit a six over a fielder on the rope? It’s got to be done so Stokes does it. Down on his haunches. Just watching the straight boundary for a few seconds. Knowing the ball would clear the fielder because that’s what he wanted it to do.
Bat so well that an umpire is shit-scared to give a plumb LBW and maybe cause a riot? By just being out there in the middle, Stokes somehow caused that Lyon lower-grades-standard fumble as he attempted a run-out.
Watching Stokes before the lunch break I thought this guy is as driven and as cocksure of himself as I’ve ever seen him. He proved that in spades later in the day. His self-belief is almost turnbullian.
And it turned out there wasn’t one single Aussie bowler who could emulate Stokes and not only say: “I’m going to knock this bastard over and retain the urn for Australia” but actually do it. Not bloody one.
If that’s a mental problem for the Aussies as they bus it to Manchester, think what a certain statistic from Headingley is doing to their heads right now.
We flash forward to a family gathering 50 years from now.
“Grandpa, is it really true that you and those other bowlers once skittled England for 67 runs?”
“Did it in two hours, lad.”
“Gee, so how much did you win the Test by then?”
“ Is that your mother calling from the kitchen saying the sausage rolls are ready?”