I wasn’t at Headingley ’81, or at Edgbaston 2005, nor Trent Bridge or Old Trafford in that momentous series that will forever be known as Gary Pratt’s Ashes (however hard the showboating Billy Bowden tried to upstage him).
I was, however, at Headingley just a week or so ago to witness what has been described by people who know far more about cricket than I do as 'The Greatest Ever Test Match'. Mrs B and I enjoyed the hospitality of friend and colleague David Timbs in the tremendous new facility, the Emerald Suite. Champagne reception, spot of breakfast, excellent lunch, flying visits from Darrens Gough and Lehmann, afternoon tea, and an all-day free bar. Thankfully, none of our party engaged in the pint-of-wine-in-each-hand strategy employed by those who were keen to make pigs of themselves (the more observant among us noticed this ploy also included a pint of lager under the seat to act as a gourmet palate cleanser).
The package also included padded seating behind the bowler’s arm - the padded seating appealing more to those of us of a certain age than the all-inclusive booze - and an indoor table of 10 for feeding time which only contained one pain in the arse. Which is actually quite a reasonable ratio, as they say, if you can’t decide who the nuisance is, then it’s probably you.
Our seats had the benefit of overlooking the rowdy, Rabelaisian, and raucous Western Terrace, so we could enjoy the - not always wholesome - antics of the crowd from a safe and splash-free distance. I’m not sure I’d actually want to be in it, and, as Aussie bowler Josh Hazlewood would undoubtedly testify, I certainly wouldn’t want to field in front of it. During one crucial passage of play, the front row featured no-holds-barred jousting pink unicorns and I must confess at times it was hard to decide whether I should be watching the tussle on field or the one in the Terrace.
A fabulous Test Match for sure, and it’s time to come clean, yes, we were there, but on the Saturday – the day before the astounding denouement. But we were there for Joe Root’s and Joe Denly’s gritty contributions, which laid the foundations for what came later, and for Stokes’s vital pre-fireworks 2 from 50 balls. Plus, we witnessed jousting unicorns.
After Stokes' explosive heroics and Leach's dogged support on Sunday, I received an overnight text from my good pal in Melbourne, Adam Conrad, who, with proper Aussie succinctness, summed up proceedings with two simple words, "Holy shit".