With London basking in the first really summery weather for what feels like a couple of years, where better to visit than Lord’s, styled The Home of Cricket and very much the home of the MCC? The Trumpet was indebted to his partner for the gift of a Lord’s Tour to mark a birthday three short of raising the bat, but not removing the helmet.
The drill is to book in advance for an allotted slot and then pitch up at the Grace Gates in good time. After the inevitable bag search (nice to see KP going through security just ahead of us hoi polloi), it’s on to the Lord’s Museum for a brief video on the old Ground’s history, as the tour group assembles. The Museum is worth the entrance money alone, with its collections of bats, balls, scorebooks and other paraphernalia from three centuries of cricket. The curved 18th century bats caught the Trumpet’s eye and one can never tire of the lovingly crafted handwriting in scorebooks detailing the likes of Verity’s match.
In a group mustering about two teams worth, we were ushered into the glory that is The Long Room, wherein our excellent guide, Keith Hatfield, came into his own explaining the function of cricket’s most famous hall and the founding of the Ground itself. The Trumpet’s attention was taken by the famous pairing of portraits hanging just a few yards away – DR Jardine, Mona Lisa smile giving away nothing, powerful in early middle age and, inches apart, DG Bradman, beaming determination from behind thick lensed glasses in early old age. Just below these titans, one finds Len Hutton, like a boy painted by Caravaggio and Keith Miller, an Australian loved unreservedly by every Englishman who drew breath.
From that room echoing with the history of great deeds and great players, we were ushered into the MCC Committee Room, where the Spirit of Cricket is distilled into a statement and the Laws of Cricket re-drafted regularly. The atmosphere here crackled with less happy deeds – men in suits sitting in judgement on Jardine and Larwood and (effectively) cutting them out of polite conversation; D’Oliviera not selected, then the outrage, then selected in that unhappy, shabby episode; and Inzamam’s team hung out to dry for a “crime” committed by every team since afternoons on Broadhalfpenny Down saw Twenty of England take on Eleven of Hambledon for a purse of a thousand guineas.
Out now to sit on those hard benches packed with men in egg and tomato ties for the Tests – well maybe not a Test against Bangladesh – and a real appreciation of the famous slope. Round to the grandstand and, with cameras clicking in the background, plenty of questions for our knowledgeable guide from a group comprising Aussies, Indians, Brits and one Swede. Before us on the outfield, the Bangla boys were going through fielding drills and England’s squad was being herded for the photocall (see above), Steve Finn a giant even amongst so many tall men.
Lastly into the enormous glass eye that is the Media Centre, journos tapping away at keyboards occasionally glancing up at surely one of sport’s most inspirational sights – Lord’s Pavilion straight ahead, flanked by the beautiful and varied stands that keep Lord’s an authentic ground and not a stadium. In the same way that it is hard to imagine how Wembley Stadium, just a few miles north, could have got anything more wrong, it is impossible to imagine how Lord’s could have got anything more right, so well judged is its development and maintenance.
With a few final questions, after a trip lasting pretty much a session of Test Match play, Keith left us to meet a new set of charges for the afternoon tour. If you’re in London and remotely interested in cricket, social history or architecture, the Lord’s Tour is a feast for the eyes and ears. As ever at Lord’s, just because it would be impossible to do a bad job such are the resources at MCC’s disposal, it doesn’t stop the egg and tomato men from making sure that everything is just right. In a world where the principles of just in time lead to just good enough, Lord’s is an oasis in more senses than one. The Greatest Game’s power merchants may have moved to Dubai and its power base to the sub-continent, but its soul is still in St Johns Wood. It’s not parochial of an Englishman to remark that he hopes that state of affairs will long continue.
You can see brief videos of The Trumpet’s visit at Gary Naylor’s Facebook profile, accessible via 99.94’s FB page.