Edgbaston Stadium and the Vitality Blast Finals Day logo

Edgbaston Stadium, Birmingham

Notts Outlaws vs. Worcestershire Rapids
Derbyshire Falcons vs. Essex Eagles
Worcestershire Rapids vs. Essex Eagles
Vitality Blast Finals Day

Inflatables, fun for lounging around the pool on holiday, or filling the romantic void in one's life. Not fun for a long day of sports viewing. Sure, this might make me a middle-class bore, but I'm here to watch sports and not kids throwing around an inflatable shark for almost the entire length of a cricket match. More on this later.

Edgbaston Stadium main entrance
A horribly framed shot of the Edgbaston exterior. My photography A-Level teacher would be so ashamed.

And this was a long day. In the first season of 24, Jack Bauer introduces each episode stating: "This is the longest day of my life." Of course he went on to have eight further longest days of his life, but I suspect during all his implausible days of trying (and usually failing) to prevent presidential assassinations and not once ever needing the toilet, he's never had a day feel as long as going to the Vitality Blast Finals Day.

Playing field at Edgbaston Stadium
Edgbaston is a spectacular venue, where most people run the risk of suffering severe sunburn.

Full disclosure, it should be noted that I am not a huge fan of cricket anymore. Most of it is down to the fact that the games are often are decided based on a coin toss, success can often be gained by playing in a slightly drier region of the country, and teams can play spend five days and then draw.

It's hard to take a sport seriously when it's so easily affected by a dark cloud. I also discovered I enjoyed baseball more and there are only so many bat and ball sports that take over three hours to complete that I have time for.

R. E. S. Wyatt Stand at Edgbaston Stadium
The bungee. Launching two people into the air whenever a wicket is taken, for some reason.

I am a sports fan though. So like most people I jumped on the World Cup final bandwagon and tuned in for Ben Stokes's match-winning innings in the Ashes, because as much as I have reservations about the game, a run chase is still one of the more dramatic and exciting things in any sport.

In spite of my general apathy towards cricket, I do enjoy T20, and I had been looking forward to this day for a long time because what more could you want than a whole day of sport, with three games back to back to back? It was a different way to spend the day, and would prove to be far more entertaining than going to Reading vs. Blackburn Rovers.

Edgbaston Stadium's South Stand
The South Stand. Where the people who actually like cricket sit.

I wasn't sure what to expect out of the day, presuming that most likely it would be spent in the company of incredibly drunk and sunburnt people, who are pretty much the worst group of people to spend a day with when you've barely recovered from a few days of nausea. I was probably not in any state to drive all the way to Birmingham, having been laid up in bed for a whole week, but this had been planned for months and I wasn't going to miss out.

In what was a great advert for Park On My Drive, I arrived at the house I'd booked to park at (because I sure as hell wasn't going to park outside the stadium and enjoy that fun later in the day) to find that all the spaces had been taken. Some sneaky snake took our spot without paying the owner of the house for the privilege.

Edgbaston Stadium exterior
Edgbaston allows you to feel just like Richard Ashcroft in the Bitter Sweet Symphony video.

Don't follow the signs to walk through the park to get to the stadium. Once you get in there it's a free for all and you have to figure it out for yourself, because apparently signposting a public footpath is too much to ask for. Come on Edgbaston, you could learn a lot from Woking. You'd think it'd be easy to just walk towards the floodlights. It isn't.

There's nothing I enjoy more than turning up late to a sporting event. I really loved a situation last year when security working with the urgency of me trying to write this blog post meant I missed an early touchdown in an NFL game between the Colts and Dolphins, or absurd traffic meaning I missed the entire first quarter and change of an Indiana Pacers game. This time, a longer than expected journey meant taking my seat just as the tenth over began.

Essex Eagles batting during the 2019 Vitality Blast semi final
Game 2 excitement.

Fortunately, watching the team batting first doesn't really count. The real interest is in the run chase, and the crowd was treated to a spectacular finale with the randomly named Worcestershire Rapids (apparently named because of regular flooding, which seems particularly odd to name your team after your sport's kryptonite, but that's just me) somehow winning by a single run.

The 45 minute gap between games allowed the opportunity to get up and explore the stadium, as well as get some food. I was going to try and avoid any comparisons between baseball and cricket, but something really leapt out during my Vitality Blast Finals Day activities, the fan experience.

Thwaite Memorial Scoreboard at Edgbaston Stadium
Temporary stand, temporary fans.

Since I went to my first baseball game in 2016 it has fast become my favourite in-person spectator experience. The stadiums really caters for the people there and there isn't anything more enjoyable than a day at the ballpark. They know people are going to be spending a good few hours there.

The fan experience at Edgbaston? Kind of lacking, especially for an event they know is going to last all day. Sure, there was the bungee attraction, but what did that have to do with the games? You pay over £70 for a ticket and decide to spend one of the games queueing up for a fairground ride that you can find on pretty much any pier? Okay then.

Eric Hollies Stand at Edgbaston Stadium
This is where the drunk people reside when they're not out of their seats queuing for more pints.

Walking around Edgbaston between games felt a little like wandering around Disney World without any of the fun. It's just as overpriced and there is such little space to manoeuvre, which means getting anywhere requires a slow shuffle, suitable for those over 90 years old.

Trying to find food proved problematic. Lots of food options, but little variation on the usual British stadium options, and little room to work out just where the queues were. This ain't ballpark food, and it's something that is severely lacking at stadiums in this country.

Exterior of Edgbaston Stadium
A large army of humans prevent any real attempts to explore the surroundings. Just how I imagine it must be in North Korea.

I should note I don't eat at stadiums very often since:

  1. Most games I go to kick off at 3pm so why would I eat? It's between lunch and dinner, why are you eating that hot dog?
  2. It's overpriced and mediocre, but evening starts mean I haven't had time to eat and I'd rather not starve.
  3. I forgot to go to the supermarket the day before and had no snacks to bring with me to an event lasting all day.

Exterior of the Press Box Stand at Edgbaston Stadium
The press box gave a rare sighting of Mr. Motivator because just like cricket, he hasn't been relevant to the general population since the nineties.

My weapon of choice ended up being pie and mash from one of the food trucks, which seemed like a great idea because you cannot possibly go wrong with a pie and mashed potato? Wrong. You certainly can when you realise you've paid nearly £10 for a tiny pie that was literally impossible to cut into.

Apparently these caterers decided to use carbon fibre to encase the meat, instead of pastry preferred by literally anyone else in the entire world. It wasn't quite the Boomstick that was served at London Stadium during the 2019 MLB London Games.

Essex Eagles players enter the field of play for the 2019 Vitality Blast Final
Because nothing says "this is a final" like flames.

There are tell-tale signs that the crowd has become bored of what's going on in front of them. The obvious being the Mexican wave that so often breaks out anytime the American sports leagues bring their product over here.

The second game between the less ludicrously named Derbyshire Falcons and Essex Eagles was a drag, and made me wish that they'd put this one on first. Derbyshire were hopeless in their efforts to chase down Essex's score, and perhaps showed why they'd never appeared at one of these things before.

Fireworks at Edgbaston Stadium
These are just fireworks and sadly not anti-inflatable missiles.

The result of this meant the introduction of a new form of entertainment for the fans, inflatables! Parents, if you insist on bringing your child to a sporting event, please can you actually make them sit there and watch what's in front of them and not run around like they're the irritating little shits you find on holiday?

I'm not saying I was perfect when I was younger, but the worst things I did at a sporting event was read the programme too much, ask my dad for my carton of Five Alive before half time, or forget my glasses.

Edgbaston Stadium at night
Fans and players celebrate their freedom from inflatable sharks.

Beach balls are fine. They're light and bounce harmlessly around. They do what they're designed to, having a poor game of volleyball. What isn't fine though, is a fucking inflatable shark. They are not designed to be batted around in the air constantly. In the end, the game turned into a bunch of children obsessively wanting to touch (and throw) said inflatable shark like it was someone mildly famous.

Unfortunately, an inflatable shark has the all the aerodynamics of a Soviet commercial airliner in the air and its natural instinct is to nosedive. So what was a tedious game of cricket was made even more irritating than people throwing an inflatable around like a javelin and children lapping that shit up even more than the t-shirt cannons. It was like watching dogs looking at any item of food. Just watch the damn game. You might learn something, as well as making life more pleasant for the people who actually want to watch a game and not spend three hours dodging out of the way of a shark.

Edgbaston Stadium exterior at night
Crowds file out of Edgbaston and all start pissing up a wall behind me.

Eventually someone saw sense and launched the shark out of the stand entirely. This made the final way more pleasant and blah blah blah, Essex won after a dramatic final ball. It was dramatic. Final was exciting. Food was shit. Hate inflatables. Am I no fun? What the heck, just take me out to the ballgame next time.

Useless information about Edgbaston Stadium

Address: Edgbaston Road, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5 7QU
Capacity: 25,000
Pitch Type: Grass
Ticket Price: £82.40 (West Stand)
Programme: £6, 84 pages (no scorecards though 😠)

Vitality Blast Finals Day 2019 ticket

Vitality Blast Finals Day 2019 programme