Bairstow silences bhangra beat in Birmingham
ON ANY other day, Edgbaston is England’s cricketing bear pit; a raucous, partisan arena where rivals fear to tread. Not yesterday, though, when our so-called “12th man” had shown up in an India shirt, and brought 20,000 mates along with him. This Bombay bash in Birmingham saw home fans outnumbered eight to one amid an invasion of revellers who started dancing and singing at 6am. For 12 hours, the city was theirs before England finally stole the party, sealing a crucial victory to revive their hopes of a place in the World Cup semi-finals.
With the crowd against them, England, after back-to-back defeats, flourished in their newfound status as underdogs. The stakes were impossibly high but Eoin Morgan’s side held their nerve in a 31-run success, ending India’s undefeated streak in the tournament. Pre-match comments from Jonny Bairstow had only added to the pressure on England. His suggestion that critics were “waiting for us to fail” had been poorly received, but he repaid any lingering debt in style, striking 111 to help secure the winning innings of 337 for seven.
Last night, match-winner Bairstow said the “fanatical” Indian support had been an inspiration. “You can either be intimidated by it or you can go and relish it and enjoy it.”
He added: “I think the experience of guys now playing around the world in different competitions, especially in the IPL, allows people to get used to the noise and enjoy how fanatical the Indian public are about our great game.”
Unlike perhaps any World Cup home game in history, this do-or-die victory came without much support inside the ground.
In the famed Hollies Stand, normally the preserve of England’s diehard support in fancy dress, there was only a sea of Indian flags.
For the players, it was the weirdest
of dynamics: home advantage inverted. England’s Barmy Army had either failed to turn up or were drowned out as the crowd bounced to the beats of Indian bhangra music.
This was an arena where Virat Kohli, India’s record-breaking batsman, was king. Indian supporters arrived from all corners of the planet. One Indian couple travelled from Sydney, but the majority arrived on flights from Mumbai and Dehli.
The ground is ordinarily England’s version of Australia’s Gabba, with a vicious home support that comes into its own during the Ashes. Instead, the stand named after the spinner Eric Hollies – who bowled Donald Bradman for a duck in the Australian’s final Test innings – was an Indian carnival.
Concern has been voiced that interest in cricket is dwindling among younger generations. Yesterday, however, the delirium from the away support, even in defeat, was reminiscent of scenes of the football World Cup last summer. If cricket needs rescuing, the Indians have some good advice to offer.
England are now guaranteed semi-final qualification if they beat New Zealand at Chester-le-street in their last group game.
England’s Jonny Bairstow celebrates reaching his century during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match against India at Edgbaston, which the hosts won by 31 runs