Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Hallowed Turf

Lords. The Nursery End.

Around the corner from my flat in St Johns Wood is one of London’s more sacrosanct edifices: Lords Cricket Ground, home of the Marylebone Cricket Club, the MCC, and the original Ashes Urn. So it is about time that I paid a visit - agreed? With my intrepid visitors in tow, I set off to see what all the fuss is about.

I can’t say that I actually knelt down and kissed the hallowed turf (don’t laugh - it’s not unknown), but we did spend a very pleasant day out. Miraculously, the sun shone. The match was a 50-over one day exhibition match between the West Indies and Middlesex County Cricket Club (to which Lords is also home; this is the MCCC, not to be confused with the MCC. Got that?) The Windies batted first, and superbly. They were controlled, professional, cautious but not too cautious, and when they neared the end of their 50 overs, they began hitting balls for sixes everywhere. I am so pleased to report that I, in my lower grandstand seat, had to dodge TWO cricket balls hit thither. Very exciting.

Oh - just for those who are not familiar with the rules of cricket (you can buy a little booklet on the subject at Lords), a "four" is scored when the ball reaches the boundary; a "six" is scored when it goes over the boundary. Since the boundary is the perimeter fence (or a rope near the fence) a six most usually soars right into the clustered grandstands. As I said, very exciting. 

"The Pavilion End"
We spent the lunch break shopping furiously in the Lords souvenir shop (cricket jumpers were a popular choice). But the later session, with the MCCC batting, proved less exciting. The international team was far superior, and wickets fell quickly and with few fireworks - victory to the Visitors. Nevertheless, congratulations to both teams. 

Just to orient you, you should know that at Lords the two 'ends' of the cricket pitch - from which the bowlers bowl alternately - are known as "the Pavilion End" and "the Nursery End". The names are descriptive of the geography of the ground: at the Pavilion End stands the Members' Pavilion, a building of Victorian splendour and a dress code; and at the Nursery End is (behind the stands) the practice ground. 

Th Windies, fielding in their trademark One-Day dark red.
In case you’re wondering about those Ashes, the tiny urn, a mere 11 cm high, is kept in the Cricket Museum at Lords. It was given to the captain of a departing defeated English cricket team in 1883, by some Australian ladies, to represent ‘the ashes of English cricket”. Not that the Aussies like to rub it in or anything....After sitting for years amongst other cricket memorabilia, the small and venerated object has now come to represent a battle of monolithic proportions, the struggle for cricket dominance between Australia and England.

As you may know, cricket is renowned for many things, including the fact that a Test match takes (a maximum of) five days to play. It is also renowned for an intense interest in statistics. But here's a set of stats that explains that interest:

At precisely 11:11 on the 11th day of the 11th month of 2011 South Africa needed 111 runs to beat Australia in the 1st Test in Cape Town. the scoreboard read: 11:11 11/11/11 Umpire Ian Gould and many within the crowd stood on one leg for that minute. 

That's cricket for you. Slightly eccentric, interesting and unique.

The scoreboard - Windies doing well...

One of the handsome gates.

On St Johns Wood Road, announcing that you've reached Nirvana.

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