If you’re a fan of something, you’ll find there’s often a revered place you must visit. Christians go to Lourdes, Americans go to burger restaurants, historians visit places such as Auschwitz.
For cricket fans, that place is known as the Home of Cricket, aka Lord’s. It’s basically Disneyland for people across the globe. Speak to anyone about the ground and they’ll tell you it’s a special place to visit. Listen to players – past and present – and they’ll tell you it’s one of their favourite venues. Why?
Champagne is a must, closely followed by Pimm’s. Picnics are encouraged, and although you might not like the Bacon and Egg tie, hat and shirt (called bacon and egg because it’s literally the colour of bacon and eggs. Yum) it’s a great place to dress up or down, take the family, and enjoy the buzz.
Think groups of guys getting into the spirit with cups of Pimm’s, and couples enjoying the game in the sun – one watching the game and other other catching rays. Kids are warmly welcomed too. After all, this isn’t the same atmosphere as a footy match. No, it’s far classier.
It’s one of the most stunning grounds in world cricket. Lord’s is steeped in history. From the Long Room where players pass through on the way to the pitch, to the famous honours board, everywhere you look there’s a little piece of history.
It’s also one of the most unique grounds in world cricket. Fans of the game will know about the ‘Lord’s slope’. If you’re not a fan, the Lord’s Slope is the gradient slope of the ground itself, the ground the players actually play on. What they might not know is that the drop from east to west is EIGHT FEET AND SIX INCHES. That’s almost two whole Lauras. One person standing on one end is almost nine feet higher than a person standing on the other.
One of the coolest parts of the ground is seeing where the MCC – Marylebone Cricket Club – meet to discuss the laws of the game. Because cricket isn’t a static sport. No, things change as players progress and skills develop. We stood in the very room where for centuries law-makers of the game have discussed Steven Finn knocking the bails off during his run up, runners for injured batsmen, fielding restrictions and so on. It was where the English and Australians met to discuss the Bodyline Tour in the 1930, when all signs pointed to it being called off because the English team was just too rubbish/aggressive to take on the Aussies. Seriously.
Fans of Sky Sports will know about the Media Centre. The aluminium structure is home to the hundreds of journalists covering the game. It’s where you see Messrs Botham, Gower, Warne, Holding, Lloyd, and Hussain commentate from. Nasser, who accompanied us on our tour of the ground, said it was one of the best jobs in the world. He isn’t wrong.
Behind the Media Centre – the Nursery End – lies various food and drinks outlets, a small pitch, and the MCC Cricket Academy. It’s where you learn how to play the front foot drive, the forward defensive, and the square cut – all cricket shots vital to winning. Needless to say, the newbie players of the modern day game, such as Buttler, Morgan, Bairstow, and Roy, wouldn’t necessarily follow the MCC coaching manual to a tee, given how much the game has moved on.
Nasser, who also joined us here, showed us how a bowler’s Yorker length – an unplayable delivery in his time – is now a scoring shot for the modern day player. He explained how his first principle was keeping the ball out, whereas now it is all about runs.
For me, it was enough talk. It was time to pad up and have a go. Me? Playing cricket in the MCC Cricket Academy nets? With Nasser Hussain bowling at me? It didn’t get better than that.
Even though I probably swung like a rusty gate, I timed a few through the covers and past the bowlers. You know you did OK when even Nasser says, ‘Great shot! You’ve played before haven’t you?’
As a prize for my padding up, I came away with a few very colourful, large and painful bruises. One of the bowlers was a regular player and a bit nippy. Ouch.
Having been to Lord’s before to watch a test match in the stands, I knew how the Famous Lord’s Buzz affects everyone, whether watching the cricket or just having a day out. But meandering behind the scenes brought the entire experience alive. The museum display changes depending on the visiting country. The Ashes urn, complete with the story of how it came about, is on display. It’s a must for any fan of the game.
The great thing about Lord’s is that there’s something for everyone. Yes, it’s synonymous with test cricket – the pinnacle of the game – but there’s more to it. The advent of T20 cricket and the 50 over game has brought new fans to the crease (or gate. Whichever you prefer).
Take this weekend’s Royal London One Day Cup Final between Warwickshire and Surrey, which will feature some greats of the game. Ian Bell and Kumar Sangakkara will line up against each other, pretty special for a cricket fan.
And even if you’re not a fan of the game, if the weather is set fair, there’s nowhere like Lord’s on a Saturday. If anything, just for the champers and Pimm’s.
The 2016 Royal London One-Day Cup Final takes place at Lord’s on Saturday the 17th September. Tickets are priced from £30 for adults and just £5 for under-16s and are available to buy online now – www.lords.org/final