26 June 2017

Touring Lord's Cricket Ground (and learning to bat with Matthew Hoggard)

How often do you find yourself in the cricket nets at Lord's, getting tips on how to improve your skills from an ex-England fast bowler before taking a tour through the hallowed 'Home of Cricket'?

Disclaimer: We were invited guests of the England and Wales Cricket Board
but my terrible hand eye co-ordination and ensuing words are all my very own.
Tours don't usually include a personal Cricket masterclass.

So for Shikha (of Why Waste Annual Leave) and I to find ourselves batting and bowling in the Marylebone Cricket Club nets at Lords, we actually couldn't stop grinning at our blind luck - and when Matthew Hoggard MBE, former England test cricket team bowler and captain of Leicestershire) saw me pick up a cricket ball and just how terrible my bowling was, he also smiled. Slightly grimly if truth be told.

Before 1787 aristocrats and noblemen played their cricket in White Conduit Fields at Islington, London. Slightly afeared for their safety (apparently the roads out to the village were frequented by thieves and highwaymen) they hired Thomas Lord to scout out land nearer into central London, eventually arriving in St John's Wood, where the grounds have now stood for two centuries.


Ever since, local and national teams have competed over a variety of matches and game formations - not least a few years ago when we witnessed the New Zealand Black Caps play and get beaten against England in a fascinating 5 day match.


One of MCC’s most important roles, is its having custodianship of the Laws of Cricket. (Although the International Cricket Council is the global Governing Body for cricket, it still relies on MCC to write and interpret the Laws of Cricket, which are applicable from the village green to the Test arena.)


To say we were enthusiastic rather than talented in the 32°C heat is an understatement - and Shikha will back me up all the way when I say that.

However, I did manage to smack two good balls before retiring my bat for another 10 years or so.


I feel like this shoefie sums up my relationship with sport: distant, but having an appreciation for it (despite never wearing appropriate clothing).


After a quick posing session with the Royal London One Day Cup (details below for sending your loved ones to watch the match whilst you go out for afternoon tea, let's keep it real here) we were gathered for a tour of the grounds.


Slipping under the stands and along the length of bars that line the pitch (one of the best things about going to the Cricket is the flowing champagne and gentlemen bedecked in brightly striped blazers) our tour guide took us on a brief history of the hallowed earth.


London, oh London.


Most people will recognise the iconic Pavilion, and we were lucky enough to have a quick look beautiful interiors...


......overlooking the pitch and futuristic media centre...


...while Matthew regaled us with the amazing feeling as a player walking through Pavilion out onto the field of play. Howszat? <Cricket joke.>

We then popped into the Cricket Museum where our passionate guide told us the fascinating story of the Ashe urn - passed (symbolically) backwards and forwards as a result of ongoing matches between England and Australia.



Sitting down inside the media centre, as non-devotees of the sport, both Shikha and I were transfixed by the stories, the history and the sheer fervour that fans have.


I said it in 2014, but I'll say it again - The opportunities that living in London offers are breathtaking.


Nb: The 2017 Royal London One-Day Cup Final takes place at Lord's on Saturday 1st July. Tickets are really reasonable, and are available to buy online now at www.lords.org/final.

Top tip: take a nice tipple and picnic with you.

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