What goes around comes around. Back in 1884, when the English took on the Aussies on what was to become the home of Cricket, little would have the suited gentleman sitting in the Pavilion end balcony imagined that the same hallowed turf will host the Test no. 2000 almost 127 years later.
The ground itself has changed its colours in keeping with times, but has retained the quintessential charm that it had since the early days. Today it has a seating capacity of more than 30,000 and houses the MCC museum that preserves the remnants of Cricketing history and legend, including the much venerated Ashes. The Media-Centre is a state of the art single shell aluminium structure juxtaposed against the old pavilion and has earned critical acclaim- RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture in 1999. One visit to the meccah of Cricket and even the most reluctant of Cricket fans will come out a changed man; such is the blissful aura that surrounds this place.
2000 Test matches sure is a landmark that makes you sit up and notice. Of the 2000 Test matches played till date, a little over hundred Test matches (120 at the last count) have been played at the Lord’s, yielding result in more than 70 of such encounters.
Whether the ground made these battles legendary or the battles made the ground legendary is more a matter of speculation, coloured deeply in the subjectivity of individual opinions. Simply put, it is hard to say. Fact remains, it is one ground every cricketer dreams of stepping his foot on, wants to give his best to earn the respect of the knowledgeable Cricket fans, and earn the place on the roll of honours that one can become a part of after you score a century or take a fifer.
Some of the players have left an indelible impression on the history of game by coming up with performances that are etched as much in the minds as on the roll of honours. Lord’s refused to lose to English between 1932 and 2009, and saw many legendary performers including legendary Don Bradman (a sublime 254 in 1930), and modern legends like Warnie and McGrath (his 8/38 being the best at the venue) reserving their special for the home of Cricket. For the succour of English, Gooch has the highest individual score of 333* (and century in the next innings) against Indians scored in ‘90. Botham has the highest tally of wickets (69 from 26 innings), but is better remembered for his exploits off the turf.
Among the Indians, Dilip Vengsarkar has made Lord’s his home away from home scoring three back to back centuries each time he visited Lord’s in ‘82, ‘86, and ’90. Of the total of five Test that India has won at Lord’s, only one has come at Lord’s back in ‘86 backed on Dilip’s century and some spirited bowling performances by Kapil, Chetan Sharma, and Maninder Singh. India won the series 2-0 and had a perfect opportunity to go 3-0 up. But that had to wait till the English visited India in ’93, under the leadership of Azhar, who too has a century at the Lord’s, albeit in a losing cause in ‘90.
Despite the lacklustre results at Lord’s, it has a special place in the heart of Rahul Dravid who made his debut (95*) in ’96 along with Saurav. The Indians waiting to take on the English unlike their past teams are the Test no. 1 and are expected to do better than the history suggests. The English side is looking at this series as their opportunity to take a crack at Test no. 1 status on a ground on which they have traditionally had an upper hand against Indians. There is a small matter of Sachin Tendulkar having not scored a century here, just like Dravid and Laxman, but is now looking for the much spoken about century no. 100. The war of words is heating up and is already making the global warming experts fret.
Summary- there is one more legend waiting to be written. We have just a few more hours to go before umpire says play and the bowler runs in to bowl from the pavilion end with a slope that will make the ball duck in. The magic is about to unfold and I am ready to engulf myself. Just like you I believe.