“Why do they call it Lords?” A boy of 7 asked his father, as they sat in the stands, basking in a glorious summers day. The father leaned in close and smiled, “It’s because this is where it all began, it’s because this is what they all dream of,” he pointed at the outfield, to all the men dressed in white. The boy nodded, not fully understanding what had just happened, for all he could see were some men throwing a ball and some other hitting it away with a bat, “I do that in my garden all the time” the boy thought to himself. Little did he realise that this would be the start of a tumultuous love affair, with the sport and all the people that surround it.
Fifteen years later and the little boy grew up to be a student rather than a cricketer, albeit one who was still blissfully in love with a game which had so often bowled him a googly. You see, the game he loved so much has been unfaithful, adulterous, lying and cheating it’s way from match fixing to Stanford by way of Modi and yet, after all the broken promises and whispers of eternal love, the boy kept coming back. You may be asking yourself, “why, why did he do that?” Well, the answer is quite simple, the boy kept coming back for more abuse and more heart break because of Lords, the fondly labeled “Home of Cricket”, the place where the English summer truly begins. This piece is a love letter from a cricket tragic to the vestige of dreams it self, Lords Cricket Ground.
I won’t bore you with the details of how the MCC came into being or the history of the gentleman’s game evolving into a multinational, multi-million pound industry, with this small, unassuming sports ground at it’s center. No, Lords deserves more than that, it deserves a tale of heroism, bravery, sporting achievements unparalleled any where else, what it deserves is a story of great feats carried out by giants. My first “proper” memory of Lords, one in which I actually knew what was happening, was the 1999 World Cup final between Australia and the then magnificent Pakistan. Being the descendant of Pakistani immigrants, they were obviously the team I was rooting for. A victory seemed certain. Enter Shane Warne, a man who would go onto become Australia’s greatest bowler in possibly their greatest ever era. He was too much for any of Pakistan’s batsmen to handle and so my dreams came crashing down, fragmenting into a thousand pieces. I never wanted to go back to Lords, yet I did, every year to this very day.
I witnessed many more feats, especially those by the likes of Warne, Flintoff, KP, Ponting, Tendulkar and so many more. The game would gradually change, as most things do, but the first test at lords was always the same. A showcase for the sport, engulfed by gentle clapping, the occasional Mexican wave and some rather questionable yet highly satisfying food. Matches such as the Natwest final between England and India in 2002 and the first test of the Ashes 2005 stick in the memory, for very different reasons. The former simply because it had seemed so impossible for India to come back and win, in fact the script was already written but nobody told Yuvraj Singh. The first test of the Ashes in 2005 seemed to signal the beginning of an Ashes series the likes of which had occurred for the last 15 years, Australian domination but what happened at Lords seemed to awaken an England more inspired and dedicated to the cause of winning than any I have ever seen.
My fondest Lords memory however, is Freddie Flintoff’s last test at the historic venue. England’s greatest allrounder since Ian Botham, possibly their greatest cricketer of the last two decades and definitely their most prolific pedalo sailor was at his very best. One knee damaged, hobbling around the field, flames in his eyes and a vicious bowling spell ready to go, Flintoff turned the game on it’s head and put together what is surely the greatest spell of fast bowling I have ever seen by an English bowler. The Australians had no answer for deliveries which ripped through the air at 95mph. As Flintoff fell to one knee, raised both arms, the crowd cheered…a raw so primal it had the hairs on the back of my neck standing. Flintoff was the messiah, the saviour and for the briefest moment in time, the center of the universe. Only at Lords.
Over the years, cricket has soured as more and more money has poured into the sport. First there was the fall of South Africa’s White Knight, then came the embarrassment of Stanford cricket, the commercialism of the IPL and the black stain of the Pakistan trio. Even more match fixing allegations have spread through the sport over the last 12 months, every team on the planet has to some level been involved. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been left heart broken but when the summer arrives and I make my way to Lords for English cricket’s first test, I always feel at home. Like going to visit an old friend, a friend who has been with me through thick and thin, success and failure, love and loss. A friend who will be with me long after I have graduated, gotten a job, gotten married, had children and those children have left to explore the world on their own. Lords will outlive all of us and God knows how many more generations after. It deserves to. It is the field of hope, where dreams are made. A place where broken hearts are mended and tears wiped away.
In life we have all loved and lost but I pray every night, that Lords will always stay.