Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lourdes, the Home of Cricket

Every cricketer must go to a Lords Test Match at some point in their life.  For myself and 4 other Bermuda and ex-Bermuda hands this was our pilgrimage.  Rosie from Bermuda had suggested it a couple of months ago -- first two days of the Test Match against Sri Lanka -- and I jumped at it.  Another Bermuda hand, Dave B, also jumped at it.  When they heard about it, another couple of ex-Bermuda hands, Ali in Dublin and John in York, said yes too.  So we were set.

The Members' Pavilion at Lourdes

Cricket needs to be watched in good weather though and we were fortunate to have sunshine on both days.  Getting there was a dream too -- 3 stops up the Jubilee Line and 10 minute walk.  However in the hallowed ground, no vestiges of the Barmy Army. They apparently only appear at away matches and at matches other than at Lords (I'd seen them at Old Trafford in Manchester, Rosie at the most recent Ashes series in Melbourne) but the atmosphere was upbeat and very well organised.

Time was that major events in England were chaos.  Refreshment stands were laughable and bathroom facilities unspeakable.  If the event was sporting, it began on time but otherwise start time was more indicative than reality. But time has moved on and so has the organisation.  It is now arguably over-organised.  And very clean.

The cricket was terrific too.  England batted and after a jittery start, Essex boy Alistair Cook picked up from where he left off in Australia and just batted Sri Lanka out of the match.  Not quite actually as he had a sole rush of blood on 96 and departed but others picked up the mantle and mashed their way to 341-6 overnight. Rosie and I had our picture taken with Mike Gatting who was very gracious.

Rosie, Dave and I met newly arrived Ali in Covent Garden after which a Belgian restaurant called "Belgo" was the joint of choice.

The second day saw John arrive too and with Rosie, Dave and I representing Bermuda in formal wear, we departed.  We earned several wolf whistles but the most incongruous (and amusing) thing was Rosie calling out "tickets for sale" trying to be both surreptitious, invisible (to the authorities) and at the same time visible to potential punters on a street corner near the ground -- wearing yellow Bermuda shorts.  Ali had engineered an invitation into a box so our tickets were redundant.  Rosie managed to sell the tickets for half face value so the stress for the day was over and the day could be well enjoyed.

L to R: Me, John, Dave B and Rosie all dressed up with somewhere to go

It is easy to sneer at corporate hospitality.  I do it all the time.  Those bloody prawn sandwich brigade, etc.  And with some justification too.  Those attending tend not to be true cricket fans but rather people out for a jolly.  The box next door for example (a large UK bank) was totally empty other than for Michael Vaughan and his family for part of the afternoon -- he left after turning down the opportunity of appearing in a global exclusive photo shoot with us.  It was jammed on business days but on the weekend (this was Saturday) nobody wanted to go.  Our box on the other hand was jammed.  And going back to my first point, it was increasingly difficult to maintain a high moral ground faced with the corporate largesse spread in our direction.  Great day indeed and thanks are due to Dave T, Max and Nick from Invesco for being such gracious hosts.

The cricket was fabulous as well.  Prior's great hundred followed by Dilshan's.  I managed to win the pool on how many SL would end up with at the end of the day -- my bet was 232 for 5, they managed 231-1 but it was only runs that counted.  And the day gradually wound down increasingly hazily but with much great bonhomie all round.

Who wouldn't love a day out like this?

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