Marketing has always struck us as a strange science. We’ve never been inspired to bet on the next goalscorer by a 42 inch hologram of Ray Winstone or thought it matters more when there’s money on it. Do guys really think girls don’t like a bit of grey hair? George Clooney says otherwise. Does Pele really make erectile dysfunction less taboo? Hell no. We feel we’re above such obvious messaging, but when the ECB emailed to say there were tickets available for the Saturday of the Lord’s Test we were in there like a 70’s DJ at a charity event (although not the Jimmy Savile sort of DJ). It was obvious why these tickets were available: the princely sum of £100! Fortunately for those that followed the winter’s events they also had tickets available for Sunday, at a little over half the price.
This correspondent’s previous two trips to Lords were, despite being quite a few years back, suitably memorable. The first was the final day of Andrew Strauss’s first Test, when Nasser Hussain ran him out only a few runs shy of a second Test hundred. The disappointment was quickly alleviated when we remembered we were actually on study leave for a very important exam; taking in Test cricket when you should be revising consolidated cash flow statements is a sure sign you are winning at life.
The second visit was a couple of years later: a Saturday with the sun beating down on the lower deck of the main stand, drinking with a bunch of good mates and watching Graeme Smith bat ALL FUCKING DAY. Well, we say all day, our vague recollection is that we decamped to a nearby pub just after the tea interval and watched the rest on the TV. This decision, in the sober light of day, makes no sense at all.
Lord’s truly is one the greatest sporting arenas our country has to offer and this is reflected in the ECB’s three tier pricing strategy – high, higher and highest. We arrived late due to a combination of a late night swearing at Wayne Rooney (Phil Neville – WTF?) and engineering works on the Jubilee line. As we exited St John’s Wood we were met by a swaying, unshaven, aging ticket tout who looked like George Best and clearly shared his recreational interests. Still it made a change from the usual scallies who follow this particular career path. We took our seats in the Compton Upper, just below the media centre and settled in for the afternoon session.
England made a promising start to the fourth day, securing a 122 run lead into the third innings, in which they were 27 for 0. Captain Cook hit a couple of nice boundaries before nicking off in a repeat of his last *insert large number here* innings. Then England unveiled their new attacking strategy of being a bit guff rather than just completely guff.
We spent the tea interval listening to a tedious Q&A with John Emburey and an over enthusiastic ECB PR man, queued to charge our phone at the Investec charging station and then headed past the Verve Clicquot champagne bar onto the nursery ground. Hundreds of young chaps named Giles, Hugo and Rupert playing mini cricket games whilst their dads try and join in without getting their chinos and loafers dirty; Lord’s truly is a unique place.
Back to the action and we saw two players in the rotund shape of Gary Ballance and the lithe shape of Chris Jordan steady the ship. Both played sensibly and put the bad ball away with aplomb to push England onwards. Both are new to Test cricket but appear to have the temperament and ability to be fixtures in the side for a number of years. At this point we were hoping for an acceleration and declaration, leaving Sri Lanka a tricky 30 minutes batting at the end of the day. As has been well documented – not by us, as our current one article a week schedule clearly testifies – it never came, which this correspondent finds particular disappointing. Much has been talked about the new positive era and this was a perfect opportunity to showcase it. A lead of 350 is plenty and with a bit of pre-warning, Ballance still would have been able to smash his hundredth run over deep midwicket’s head. We fear Cook will never learn to be Michael Vaughan, let alone Mike Brearley, and it’s just something we have to get used to/grumble about.
Ballance’s maiden Test hundred did mean that the crowd filtered away with a happy disposition to accompany a myriad of corporate giveaways and much lighter wallets, but a good day was had by all.