1)Ian Bell is a sublime genius who is in the form of his life.
Only two Englishmen have ever scored three centuries in a home Ashes series before Ian Ronald Bell joined them in this Test. He was cruelly dubbed The Sherminator by Shane Warne in the never to be forgotten 2005 series as his batting and character were called into question. The truth was that the Australians were a great side and Bell at the time was young and inexperienced. How time has proved his detractors wrong. Sherminator? Terminator more like.
2)Despite wearing copious amounts of hair gel over a burgeoning bald patch Stuart Broad is actually very intimidating as a bowler.
As someone who spent three days at the Riverside in Chester-Le-Street his performance was of the highest quality. But whether you saw him in the flesh or on TV you realised this was a player who was motivated, aggressive, dangerous, and who looked like taking a wicket every ball - which is not something you can level at him all the time. Certainly not during his unfathomable and largely ineffective “enforcer” stage. We can now add Durham 2013 to The Oval 2009, The West Indies in May 2012, and New Zealand in May 2013, both at Lords. The link? Match winning bowling displays that at times bordered on the unplayable. Stuart Broad, hair gel and all, I salute you.
3) Tim Bresnan is an important cog in the side.
After his obdurate innings as a night-watchman at Lords alongside his fellow Tyke Joe Root he carried on in the same vein in the North East scoring an invaluable 45 runs in the second innings. Allied to the fact that his parsimonious bowling in Australia’s ultimately doomed run chase helped Stuart Broad’s cause by piling pressure on the pinned down batsmen, you can see why the man he replaced, Steven Finn, is nervously awaiting the squad announcement for the return series down under this winter.
4)Chris Roger’s fully deserved his first test century.
A player who if he hadn’t been included in the Australian team for this series would have been destined to be labelled a good honest journeyman pro who never really made it at the top level. Yet as a Middlesex member who has seen a lot of Rogers over the last few years – not to mention those who watched him score prolifically for Derbyshire (as well as those Leicestershire followers who saw him score a double century against the seminal 2005 Australian tourists for their county) we always knew he had more about him than that.
It was proved by this obdurate innings that, whilst not entirely without luck, also proved grittiness and mental toughness are just as important as talent. I was amongst hordes of Barmy Army in the madness of the temporary seating and to a man they all stood up and applauded Rogers when he reached that important milestone. Proving that Rogers not only knows English conditions but is a well-respected pro in this country. It also proved that even if English cricketing fans can drink copious amounts of alcohol whilst dressed as a penguin they also have a great knowledge of their sport, and respect the game and the players who grace it.
5) The Barmy Army really are Barmy.
Speaking of the Barmy Army and general madness at one stage after tea on the Saturday, I looked around and saw various sights that, if an alien had landed at the Riverside at that very moment, would have left them extremely confused as to knowing what exactly earthling life forms really are.
I spotted three nuns, a skeleton, two Pink Panthers, Kermit the Frog, and an unconvincing Mexican bowing down to the day’s biggest beer snake as if it was a god whilst chanting “Feed the snake, feed the snake”. (For those uninitiated in the ways of cricket a beer snake is the careful and assiduous stacking of empty plastic pint pots to make a long line. Don’t ask why that’s all you need to know). The best one I saw on Saturday reached an impressive 20 foot. I also saw someone dressed in a 101 Dalmatian’s onesie standing on his seat grooving away obliviously to an invisible tune inside his head. It made an incongruous sight; especially as a set of Freddie Mercury’s dressed in tight pink tops and stockings a la the “I want to break free” video were stood next to him merrily hoovering.
It may have had the feel of a travelling circus. It wouldn’t be right at Lords. But here in the middle of the more earthy North East it made for a strangely compelling sight. And that’s without mentioning the sights and sounds I witnessed in Newcastle’s Bigg Market over the weekend. Which is another story entirely. Celebrating an Ashes Victory in the middle of the Barmy Army is something every Englishman has to experience at least once in their life.
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