Paul Edwards witnesses a rainy day at the Lord's Test
"Why should I pay good money to watch Test cricket? You can see it all on the telly." The oft-repeated cry of the armchair fan seemed particularly powerful at Lord's on Thursday afternoon. A good-sized crowd waited two hours, forty minutes for the game to start; it then watched 12.3 overs of cricket before bad light and increasingly heavy rain returned, wiping out the rest of the day's play.
In 65 minutes the punters saw an appeal unheld, an England captain bowled by a very good ball, and 39 runs scored, eight of them in a rather pleasing fashion by Jonathan Trott. For that, they coughed up 50% of their ticket price, which, neatly enough, came to £50 on Thursday. Yes, it can still cost £100 to watch a day's cricket at Lord's, although there were seats available for £45 and juniors got in for a fiver. The weather throughout was drear and autumnal, an impression strengthened by the use of the floodlights, which gave the whole occasion the feel of a football match. Except that when Buxton entertain Mickleover Sports at the Silverlands on October 6th, I bet the weather will be less bleak.
The spectators made the best of it of course. For example, the Lord's shop was packed, and around the ground - yes, the press-box too, I'm afraid - a lot of eating took place. At the Gray Nicolls stand, a teenage cricketer weighed the merits of various bats with the practiced air of an old pro. The public address system kept people up to date with progress, and even the legendary Lord's stewards were co-operative and helpful. A few circuits of the ground revealed literally hundreds of small groups of old friends, drinking, joking, catching up. And even this may be nothing more than a prelude to Saturday, when the Lord's pavilion and its environs should become the venue for the poshest bash in London.
And on the television in the press-box we saw exactly why people turn up to watch Test Matches. Sky showed highlights of last year's Lord's Test and specifically, the final morning, when Andrew Flintoff bowled England to victory. Being there that Monday was special and it's part of the reason why people shell out for a view which doesn't permit them the luxury of many replays or the option of popping out to the shops. Remembering what it was like to be present on that occasion, one's view "unobstructed" by a screen, reminded one of the thrill of seeing great sport in the flesh and why it is always an honour to write about it. Around the giant screen on the Nursery Ground people gathered in the rain to watch highlights of the final day of the 2010 Ashes series at the Oval. We chatted and they told me about the thrill of those moments and what it was like to watch it, not in their own homes, but with their mates, "giving it large" one Sunday afternoon last summer. I remembered too. Yes, it was better than the telly.
Meanwhile, by half past five on August 26th 2010, the lights were on in the pavilion at Lord's and also in the Grand Stand's hospitality boxes. Play was abandoned soon after. The spectators who had been huddled at the back of the stands made their way home, although I'll bet some will be back tomorrow. They will hope to experience the thrill of that moment when sportsmen exceed even their own ambitions and astonish the crowd with bravura skill. After all, thanks to today's rain, there are 98.3 overs to be bowled tomorrow - we hope.
Photo: PA Images