To be at Lord's on Saturday was a special event. Paul Edwards was there
Stuart Broad raises his bat to the crowd after his innings of 169 (PA Photos)
Two events took place at Lord's today. One of them was the Test Match between England and Pakistan in which mighty statistical oaks were felled as rapidly as saplings in a spring gale; the other was a massive series of social gatherings which dominated the gardens just behind the great old pavilion. This latter occasion seemed more venerable than the game and appeared just as important to its participants.
The Saturday of a Lord's Test occupies a cherished place in the English calendar. Even when it takes place as late as the August Bank Holiday weekend, it still joins Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and Henley as one of those occasions when one can be sure of meeting up with old friends, exchanging gossip and, oh yes, taking in a little sport too.
In order to participate fully in this gorgeous junket, you should really be a member of the club of course. In this case, the club in question is the MCC, whose members wear their orange and yellow ties with unconcealed pride.There are plenty of other famous colours and blazers on view too: Old Harrovians, Old Etonians, I Zingari. But it is the MCC colours which really count during the Lord's Test.
You probably need money as well. The price of the whole poached Dorset lobster or the Beef Wellington in the Harris Garden's alfresco restaurant are not for those on modest budgets. But the enthusiasm with which the dedicated picnickers quaffed the jugs of Pimm's and the bottles of Veuve Clicquot bore witness to their formidable determination to make the most of their precious privileges.
In the Coronation Garden - although Hamperland would be a better name for it - news was passed on and old friends from school were kept up to date with what the chaps and gels had been doing. One woman with a voice like a foghorn seemed intent on broadcasting to the nation without the aid of a microphone. But then again, she had a lot to pass on. For those who didn't know, Charlie should be a made a partner in the autumn, Tom's doing terribly well in the City and Charlotte's off to Roedean in September. Which is just super.
And so it went on throughout the golden afternoon. The panama hats, the outrageous blazers, the print dresses. The smoked salmon, the strawberries, the vintage champagne. About a hundred yards away, Salman Butt's batsmen continued their struggle to build any sort of first innings total Pakistan 44 for three. England in late summer.
A few hours before, as we watched Stuart Broad hit seven powerful boundaries to take his score to a career-best 169, one of the game's leading historians, David Frith, made a startling comparison. "These are the sort of shots Frank Woolley played, you know," he murmured. Now Woolley is regarded as one of the most graceful batsmen the game has seen, the epitome of languid power. But Frith's view comands enormous respect. He presents an annual film show at the NFT, when the batting and bowling of the great cricketers of the past is brought back to life for 21st century audiences. No man alive has a better knowledge of what Woolley's batting was like, and if David says Broad's strokeplay bears comparison, that's good enough for me. Mind you, it also makes me keener than ever to get to one of those film shows.