To Lords, on a whim. Well, on the Jubilee Line. Clutching my M&S sandwiches I weave my way through the crowds on the Friday of England’s first Test against the West Indies. Big queues outside the entrances because the security measures now include a pat down and a thorough bag-search, incase someone tries to hijack the Mound stand, or something. I haven’t got a ticket, but a nice lady at Lords ticket office sorts me out with a brilliant seat just underneath the media commentary position and behind the bowlers arm. The price? £60. This is now the price for a view of a premier sporting event, it seems.
God, but it’s cold. Mid May, but it may as well be February. I huddle in to my anorak and queue for twenty minutes for a coffee.Windies field with their hands in the pockets, body language radiating defeat as Strauss nervously picks his way to a century. I have a little radio that lets me hear the BBC Test Match Special commentators; it’s like going to the cricket with a bunch of knowledgeable friends. Henry Blofeld in classic form. Pigeon counting, silly nicknames for the players and loads of Boycott-teasing.
The first Test I ever went to was at Old Trafford in the eighties. Big crowd of Windies supporters with steel drums made for a brilliant atmosphere. Today at Lords there’s an interested buzz, but the gut adrenaline from a hard fought contest is absent. The crowd is attentive, but it’s politeness not a passionate response to the events on the pitch. That said, we rise as one to applaud the skipper’s hundred.
Have one of the newsdesk tellies tuned to Sky Sports as England wrap it up on the Monday. Pleased that there’s a piece on the BBC Six O Clock News - but a Test victory now feels like business as usual for a side of real quality. I also think the fact that the game isn’t on free to air TV has removed it some way from the country’s radar. The sport has lots of money now, and the team looks totally professional – but do people really care the way they used to?