They applauded wildly when Joe Root did the unthinkable and attempted a reverse ramp off the first ball, he encountered that day. When Scott Boland was about to confront the final delivery of the day, attempting to endure Stuart Broad’s hostile spell, the crowd was still wildly cheering. The Edgbaston crowd never fell silent or even appeared to take a respite.
They began and concluded the fourth day of play with equal vigor and intensity. The only difference was whether they were howling in support behind their team when England were in control or against the Australians whenever Pat Cummins & Co. assumed control of the game.
Due to the unpredictable nature of one of the most intriguing days of Test cricket, the Hollies Stand devotees had ample opportunities to show off both aspects and more. When they weren’t serenading players like Travis Head and Steve Smith on the boundary, they were obediently following the conductor’s orders to elevate the figurative roof of Edgbaston whenever he was at the top of his mark.
And never was it noisier or rowdier than when Broad, as he has done so many times before in Ashes cricket, went on a wicket-taking spree. In the case of Marnus Labuschagne and Steve Smith, the two highest-ranked Test batsmen in the globe, this also holds true. It appeared as though the entire city of Birmingham was swaying and gyrating to the crescendo around the iconic venue, which was accompanied by the insensitive clanging of bottles and cans against the seats.
This was a crucible, but you felt as though you had entered a colosseum. To their credit, diehard English cricket supporters complied with their gladiators’ every whim while calling for the elimination of their opponents.
Yet, like everyone else at Edgbaston, including those in the two dressing rooms, it was impossible to determine who was in the lead at any given time. To cite a colleague, BBC’s ace producer, Henry Moeran, “This Test needs to make up its mind”.
From the moment that Root produced the day’s biggest surprise by attempting the reverse ramp, which is now a fixture in his arsenal of skills, straight up, the entire day felt like that. That disqualifies Cummins. It was followed by a remarkable over from Scott Boland, in which Joe Root began by strolling down his pitch and clipping him for four, before reverse-ramping (let’s just call it the Root-ramp) the Victorian for six, and then replicating the shot for a boundary. The last two strokes were in response to wicket-keeper Alex Carey approaching the stumps to prevent Root from leaving his crease. Then he executed the most spectacular of the early strokes he executed, a conventional leave to length delivery.
For the first twenty minutes of the day, you were persuaded that Bazball would reign preeminent in optimal conditions due to Root’s breathtaking assault on Boland. Ollie Pope’s off-stump was knocked out by Cummins’s first special delivery of the day, an in-swinging yorker.
The initiative shifted once more when Nathan Lyon dismissed both Joe Root and Harry Brook for the same score, after their partnership had threatened to close down the Australians. Thus, the odds were. Likewise, the attention of the Hollies Stand was captured.
Thus, as we enter the final day, we are just as captivated and uncertain about the outcome as we were at the beginning. If the clouds return to Edgbaston as they did on Day 3, Anderson and his teammates are confident that they will make enough inroads when it matters to give England a 1-0 lead. If they remain away, Khawaja and the rest of the middle and lower order could be just a few partnerships away from clinching the match. But if the forecasted rain has a significant impact on the day’s events, don’t discount out the unlikely possibility of Australia having to save the match.
These are the three scenarios that are most likely to occur. In a Test where improbable outcomes have a history of occurring, it may be best to abandon all predictions and bask in the grandeur of Test cricket. For this is precisely what the tens of thousands in the Hollies Stand and throughout Edgbaston will do. And maybe so should you.