Mornings after the night before. Febrile, delicate affairs. Even, it seems, when you’re a World Champion.
Last we saw of England’s victorious World Cup cricket squad, they were still pogoing away under the long shadows of the Lord’s pavilion in merry celebration.
As those glorious men in sky blue arrived for a victory parade at The Oval yesterday morning, their movements told a rather different story.
Watching them step creakily off the bus outside the south London ground’s Hobbs gate, it’s safe to say most of our heroes gave the ice bath a wide swerve after Sunday’s drama.
Possible, too, that several Methuselahs of well-earned Blanc de Blancs may also have played their part during that evening’s celebrations.
Man of the moment Ben Stokes waddled so gingerly he might have had tacks in his sneakers. Jofra Archer, bowler of the match’s decisive ‘super over’, slurped from a coffee cup as though supping a replenishing witch’s brew.
Man of the moment Ben Stokes (pictured at The Oval yesterday) waddled so gingerly he might have had tacks in his sneakers. Jofra Archer, bowler of the match’s decisive ‘super over’, slurped from a coffee cup as though supping a replenishing witch’s brew
And wicket-keeper Jos Buttler, whose last-gasp run out clinched victory, kept his peepers hidden behind an oversized pair of dark glasses.
Such was the drama just hours before, these players would have been forgiven for waking that morning and wondering if it all really happened. Future generations will read about it in dusty almanacs and still never believe it. Stokes? Buttler?
Such men probably existed, they’ll say in wizened tones, but reports on the rest of that barmy Sunday evening they’ll ascribe to their primitive 21st century forebears’ aptitude for hyperbole.
Even by 9am, scores of fans had already arrived. By the time I pitched up at 10.30am, a queue was snaking through the pavilion’s Long Room.
‘What’s this for?’ one middle-aged lady asked excitedly. Told it was the line for coffee, she wrinkled her nose in disappointment. ‘Oh. There was me thinking it was for Ben Stokes!’
Jofra Archer, bowler of the match’s decisive ‘super over’, slurped from a coffee cup as though supping a replenishing witch’s brew
Others headed for the bar for something a little more replenishing. Nothing wrong with that. It’s not often you wake on a Monday morning with the chance to toast England as World Cup winners. And besides, don’t those occasional pre-noon snifters always taste a little sweeter?
Helen and Stephen Knott were lucky enough to have been at Lord’s with their son Charlie, six, and were still recovering from the previous day’s excitement.
Frayed Knotts, you might say. ‘I can’t watch this again – it was too nerve-wracking,’ groaned Helen, motioning at a telly replaying the game’s final moments. The family had come down from north Lincolnshire and decided to stay in London an extra night to enjoy the celebrations. ‘Charlie’s supposed to be at school this morning, but shhh… don’t tell anyone,’ Helen whispered.
At that moment, a huge cry went up from beneath The Oval’s gasometer as the now famous footage of Buttler breaking the stumps played over the ground’s giant TV screens. Like Hurst’s hat-trick or Wilkinson’s drop goal, it is a moment English sports fans will never tire of seeing.
Just before 11.30am, the England bus pulled up and mad rush of schoolchildren made a beeline for their bleary-eyed idols. Amid the melee, Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright dwindled anonymously on the pavement like an eager stage-door Johnny.
As the inevitable strains of Jerusalem blurted from the tannoy, the players made their way out to the pitch where young children joined them, jostling for handshakes and selfies.
Captain Eoin Morgan was quickly swamped by adoring fans. ‘Eoin! Let us see the trophy!’ they all cried – but the Irishman preferred to keep his treasured prize clasped firmly to his chest.
Captain Eoin Morgan was quickly swamped by adoring fans. ‘Eoin! Let us see the trophy!’ they all cried – but the Irishman preferred to keep his treasured prize clasped firmly to his chest
‘It’s an amazing feeling to be world champions,’ said Buttler. ‘After the final stumping there was an amazing ten seconds. I have never felt elation like it. I just threw the gloves down and started running. I first saw Moeen Ali and then Jofra Archer.’ He added: ‘After that, it was all a blur.’
Boyish fast bowler Chris Woakes, the modest Brummie whose neat and tidy haircut wouldn’t look out of place in a Warlord comic, admitted post-match festivities had been fulsome but that he had snatched ‘a couple of hours of sleep’.
Superman Stokes looked glassy-eyed, meanwhile, the previous days’ events still possibly sinking in – and who could blame him?
Down on the main concourse, the Surrey club shop was doing brisk trade. England’s replica sky blue shirts (RRP £55) were flying off the pegs. By 12.30pm, an attendant told me she reckoned they’d sold around a hundred of them – and ‘caps, too’, she added.
Boyish fast bowler Chris Woakes, the modest Brummie whose neat and tidy haircut wouldn’t look out of place in a Warlord comic, admitted post-match festivities had been fulsome but that he had snatched ‘a couple of hours of sleep’
All music to the ears of the England and Wales Cricket board, who will surely hope Sunday’s win serves as a handy recruiting agent for the game’s future generations.
Yesterday was certainly a canny exercise in public relations, as children with beaming faces everywhere clutched miniature cricket bats, festooned with autographs from their heroes.
Kirsten Bentley had brought her two sons Tom, ten, and Charlie, nine, who had managed to get nearly all of the team’s signatures. ‘They all seemed very happy,’ said Tom. ‘I liked Joe Root the best. And Jonny Bairstow.’
Amna Rafiq, 23, a community officer from Leicestershire who also coaches a women’s cricket team, brought along her side for the event. ‘Yesterday was just amazing,’ she said.
‘Some of my girls hadn’t even played before until recently. Now after Sunday they can’t wait to get back in the nets.’
Last night, the side were obliged to make small talk with Theresa May who greeted them outside Downing Street with a cruncher of a handshake before formally posing with the Cup. I’m not sure she’s looked so happy since she sacked George Osborne.
Fortunately, there were no repeats of Freddie Flintoff et al’s squiffy behaviour post-2005 Ashes.
They’re a polite bunch this England side. Don’t be surprised if some of them offered to help the PM with her packing.