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There is only one Lord's

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Lord's_cricket_ground_EnglandA cricket ground is made by the pavilion. Perhaps it is humankind’s fascination with architecture or a connection with the traditions of the game that resonate, but even a cabbage patch can be made to look like a quaint cricket ground by a traditional pavilion, with maybe a few hanging baskets outside, and a nice gallery for spectators.  

This week, England have hosted Sri Lanka at Lord’s. Out of the thousands of cricket grounds all around the world, this is the best loved and holds the most mystique for players and fans alike. The pavilion, witness to so many historic cricketing moments, towers over the pitch, watching over the game as a custodian of the past and present values.

The pavilion, built in 1889 and designed by Thomas Verity, is a beautiful building in its own right, with the white of the seating and balcony railings standing out against the rusty brown brick work. It looks a wider building in pictures than it actually is, but rises up higher than you may think too. It is imposing and offers the ground a sense of gravitas.

It is also an emblem of tradition, something that is never far from you when at Lord’s. The Marylebone Cricket Club, whose list to join takes years to scale, with its instantly recognisable yellow and red colours has occupied the ground since 1814. There are the famous honour’s boards which tell the stories of the hundreds and five wicket hauls. There is ‘Father Time’ looking over the ground and the Long Room littered with the portraits of greats of the game.  

It is not a ground afraid of modernisation either and mixes the futuristic with the old. The media centre would not look out of place in a sci-fi film and the ground is currently under renovation, with a new stand to be ready for next season. Floodlights were installed a few years ago despite the protestations of some local residents.

The Lord’s pitch is usually flat and doesn’t have the special characteristics of, say, the lightning quick WACA in Perth or even Headingley in Leeds. But it does have a slope that is more famous than the pitch. The slope drops 2.5 metres from one side of the ground to the other and it can be difficult for batsmen to get used to, with them either believing they’re falling over or not covering their stumps. How much of a difference it makes is difficult to tell.

 

But it is tradition that undoubtedly makes the ground so special. Players want to do well there and get their names on the honours boards, engraved for eternity alongside greats of the game like Bradman, Richards and McGrath. Even as a fan, the games played, the performances and the history made all soak in to you as you’re passing through Lord’s. It’s a link to a different age.

Like Lord’s, the Sydney Cricket Ground has a beautiful pavilion. Actually it has two, and although it has been built up in to a sizeable modern sports stadium, the pavilion provides that link to the past, to the era of Bradman, to a more innocent time when a cricket ground could be appreciated for being a cricket ground. They are two of a kind in the international game.

Despite the grandeur of Lord’s and the special atmosphere it has, watching a game there has become expensive. Tickets for Tests are comfortably over £50 and a beer and a burger costs the best part of £15, which is horrendously overpriced. If you want to take a family, you’re in danger of having to re-mortgage your house to be able to afford it.

It is not a problem with Lord’s but a more general issue with international cricket, certainly in England and Australia. The expense is not likely to reduce in the near future, if ever, which will drive some people from the game. At a time when the debate on how to attract more people to Test cricket intensifies, one simple fix is to make it cheaper to attend. It is something the ECB and Cricket Australia need to do something about.

Lord’s will continue to be the showpiece ground in the world because of the tradition and history it epitomises. There is a special feeling when you’re in the ground and that will never disappear. There may be other grounds around the world with similar iconic status – Eden Gardens in India, Bridgetown in Barbados, the SCG in Australia – but there will only ever be one Lord’s. 

 

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