Archive for Lord’s

The Day at Lord’s

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , on August 19, 2012 by telescoper

Just time for a quick post to record the fact that yesterday I made my annual pilgrimage to Lord’s to watch the third day’s play of the third Test between England versus South Africa. I had to get up at 5.30 to catch an early morning train to London, hence yesterday’s “full many a glorious morning have I seen” post. That choice was motivated more by the forecast than immediate reality, however, because it was raining in Cardiff when I set out. I did however, take a sun hat and shades with me, which turned out to be a wise move as there was bright sunshine when I arrived in London. Lord’s is conveniently situated a relatively short walking distance from Paddington, but even at 9.30 in the morning I could feel the heat, so there was a glorious morning after all…

Once again, courtesy of my old friend Anton I found myself among the member’s guests in the Warner Stand, with an excellent view of the proceedings, from a position a few rows back in the direction of fine leg for a batsman at the Pavilion End. There was a bit of high cloud early on, but it soon cleared. We had warm and sunny conditions for the duration, and a full day’s cricket ensued.

England resumed on 208-5, chasing South Africa’s first innings total of 309. Bairstow and Prior started pretty well. Mindful of the match situation they played carefully and scored quite slowly. Then, after 9 overs, South Africa took the new ball, a dangerous moment in any innings, so I expected the England batsman to play even more carefully. Prior, however, had a mad moment against the very first delivery with the new ball, played an awful shot at a wide ball and departed. England were on 221-6, and hopes of them reaching South Africa’s total were fading fast. Bairstow batted well, but when he got into the 90s nerves clearly got the better of him. He was becalmed on 95 for what seemed like an eternity, and then fell. A fine innings, and such a pity he didn’t get a maiden Test century at Lord’s. At 264-8 it looked certain South Africa would get a first innings lead, but Swann and Finn added 32 for the last wicket and England eventually closed after lunch on 315 all out, just 6 runs in front.

To have any chance of winning the match, England needed to take South African wickets quickly with the new ball. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Indeed, Swann was the only bowler who looked really threatening. Although England tried hard, the South African batting is very strong and the bowlers just couldn’t put enough pressure on them consistently to break through. South Africa finished the day on 145-3.

My prediction, I’m afraid, is that South Africa (who only need to draw this game to win the series and displace England at the top of the world rankings) will bat England out of the game today. If they can reach a score over 300, which seems very likely, and the weather remains good, I think they’ll win this game. But I’m not complaining. I think South Africa have outplayed England this summer, and thoroughly deserve their success.

Not many runs were scored in the day, but it was absorbing stuff. There’s nothing to match the ebb and flow of Test cricket. But anyone who has ever been to a Test match at Lord’s knows that it’s not just about the cricket. Few people remain in their seats for the whole day; you can easily pop out for some refreshment, stroll around the various shops and other facilities, or even just sit down and have a picnic.

Unfortunately, the combination of the heat and excessive consumption of “refreshments” was too much for one gentleman I saw flaked out as I stretched my legs. The stewards and the police between them were politely suggesting that it was time for him to go home…

The Lord’s Day

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , , , on July 24, 2011 by telescoper

Time for a brief report on yesterday’s Big Day Out to London to watch the third day’s play of the First Test between England and India at Lord’s. The journey there passed off without a hitch, and I got into London a shade after 9am. It’s a fairly short walk from Paddington to Lord’s (if you know the way!) and the queue to get in moved pretty quickly, so  I was inside the ground well before 10am, scoffing a splendid bacon sandwich in the Warner stand, adjacent to the pavilion.

The weather wasn’t quite as good as I’d hoped – overcast most of the day, and not particularly warm – but we got started on time at 11am and had a full day’s play. The ground was full, and there was a good atmosphere, with a sizeable contingent of Indian supporters adding to that special buzz you get on the Saturday of a Test Match at Lord’s.

Conditions, being conducive to swing, were fairly helpful to the bowlers, although it took them a while to find their line (especially in the case of Tremlett, who also kept bowling no-balls). Of the two Indian openers, Mukund looked far the more assured; his partner, Gambhir struggled in comparison. This pair took the total to 63 without too many alarms until Stuart Broad was brought into the attack and proved to be the pick of the England bowlers. He quickly disposed of Gambhir for a slow 15 of 46 balls, managing to squeeze a full delivery between bat and pad.

That brought in Raul Dravid, who batted most of the rest of the day for a very fine century (103 not out). Mukund, who had scored the lion’s share of the runs in the opening partnership, got to 49 and stuck there for quite some time, held up by the accuracy of England’s bowling and, one suspects, nerves at the prospect of a half-century at Lord’s. Eventually he reached for a wide ball from Broad to drive and, rather unluckily, played on.

That brought in one of the all-time greats Sachin Tendulkar (to a warmly-felt standing ovation from the Lord’s crowd). I had been looking forward for ages to see him play.  One or two early alarms notwithstanding, Tendulkar and Dravid looked increasingly secure and began to score freely against the attacking field placings set by England captain Andrew Strauss. It was starting to look like  a mammoth Indian score might be on the cards when, somewhat surprisingly to me, Tendulkar edged one from Broad and a sharp chance was snaffled by Swann at slip; he was gone for 34 and India were 158 for 3.

There then followed a fascinating period of play, in which Swann (who hadn’t bowled before lunch) twirled away from the Pavilion End while a combination of quick bowlers (first Broad, and then Tremlett) steamed in from the Nursery End. England dropped two catches in one over from Broad, and Swann was posing problems but not making a breakthrough. Laxman, who had come in to replace Tendulkar looked all at sea and eventually played a rash lofted pull shot, which was caught right in front of us at deep backward square leg. India 182 for 4 was soon 183-5 as Raina went lbw to Swann, who deserved a wicket, although he did tend to bowl a bit short on occasions.

Mindful of the possibility of a collapse, the Indian batsmen went into their shells and there followed an absorbing period of attritional cricket, as Dhoni and Dravid steadied the ship. Then Dhoni was caught at slip of Tremlett – who bowled much better later in the day – to be replaced by Harbhajan Singh who survived one no-ball before playing a dreadful shot which resulted in him being caught at the wicket by Prior.

At 241-7 India were in real danger of being forced to follow on (which can be enforced if the team batting second does not get within 200 runs of the first innings total; England scored 474-8, so India needed to reach 275 to avoid it). In strode Kumar who made it quite clear what his strategy was going to be by clubbing his first ball for 4. He played  a variety of shots in his short innings – some authentic, some agricultural – not only adding entertainment value, but also taking India to 276 before skying a hook shot and getting caught.  Neither the injured Khan (batting with a runner) nor Sharma troubled to scorers and India ended up all out for 286, with Dravid remaining unbeaten until the end.

It was getting fairly dark at this point, about 6.30pm, and England couldn’t have been relishing the 5 overs they had to face before the close but they survived without loss, and I headed off back to Paddington. A thoroughly enjoyable day’s cricket and, I might add, quite a few beers. I also took a bit of time off the cricket to take a stroll around the perimeter of the stadium, which is an interesting thing to do as there are many shops and catering outlets around. The main shop at Lord’s is a bit of a disappointment, however, full of ugly overpriced tat, but  at least no hideous paperweights.

Anyway, many thanks to my genial host for the day – we were in the part of the ground reserved for members and their guests – old friend and regular contributor this blog, Anton.

Unfortunately the journey home wasn’t so enjoyable. I got the train on time, but we stopped just past Swindon where it appeared that all power had been lost on the signals between Swindon and Bristol Parkway. We sat motionless and then trundled back to Swindon, eventually setting off again via Gloucester, of all places. I’m glad I took a good long book with me, as the crossword didn’t take very long. I was supposed to be at Cardiff Central at 21.47, but didn’t actually arrive until 11.27, 1 hour and 40 minutes late. Columbo was most annoyed.

A Day Out

Posted in Cricket with tags , , , , on July 23, 2011 by telescoper

Here I am, up at the crack of dawn for a day trip to the Home of Cricket. The plan is to see the Third Day of the 1st Test between England and India at Lord’s, which just happens to be the 2000th Test Match and the 100th between these two countries.  England seem to have the upper hand after Day 2, in which Kevin Pietersen scored a double century and England declared on 474 for 8. India survived without losing a wicket to end on 17-0 at stumps. With some time lost to rain, and India a very strong batting side, it looks like a draw is the most likely outcome but I’m really looking forward to Day 3, during which I hope to have the privilege of seeing the great Sachin Tendulkar bat. This is the 100th Test Match between England and India, and Tendulkar might score his 100th Test International century in it. If he does I will be the first to congratulate him, but I won’t mind if he’s out for a duck either! Anyway, the weather forecast is pretty good and however the match goes I’m looking forward to my day out. Not sure it will be the best I’ve ever had, but then..

On the Third Day..

Posted in Cricket with tags , , on July 19, 2009 by telescoper

Following on from my previous posts (here and here) about the First Ashes Test in Cardiff, I can’t help adding a quick post about my visit to Lord’s yesterday (Saturday) to see the third day’s play at the Second Ashes Test.

The circumstances of the day’s play were a bit different to those at Cardiff, to say the least. On the first day England had batted first, starting in great style but then surrending some silly wickets. At the end of day 1 England were 364-6 with Strauss unbeaten on 161, the total score not being dissimilar to that on the first day at Cardiff. On day 2 Strauss was out almost immediately and it looked like it was going to be a disappointing day for England. But the last pair added 47 runs and England got to 425 all out. When the Austalians batted, however, England took control of the game, reducing them to 156-8 by the end of Day 2. I don’t know what got into the Ozzies on Friday but most of them lost their wickets to daft shots rather than good bowling. Perhaps it was nerves.

I arrived at Lord’s on Saturday morning, about 9.15. I have been to Lord’s a few times before but not recently and never as the guest of a member of the MCC (Anton). I joined the lengthy queue for member’s guests but made it into the ground in good time to find seats in the Warner Stand (next to the Pavilion) and then have a look around the cricket museum (where the Ashes themselves are on display).

It was a considerably posher occasion than Cardiff, with MCC ties, blazers and other paraphernalia on display. Picnic hampers were in evidence around the enclosure and  champagne corks popped at regularly intervals. I contented myself, however, with lager and a bacon butty from the bar behind the stand.

Before the start of play the talk around the crowd was all about knocking over the last two Australian batsmen quickly and then enforcing the follow on. (If the team batting second doesn’t get within 200 runs of the team batting first then they can be required to bat again by the captain of the other team, which is called “following on”.) As it happened the tailenders clung on doggedly and it looked for a while they would close in on the 225 runs needed to avoid the follow-on. However, the last two wickets did eventually fall for a total of 215, leaving a deficit of 210 runs. England could have asked Australia to bat again but, to the consternation of most of the crowd, the England captain Andrew Strauss declined to enforce the follow-on.

There are pros and cons making a team follow on. One of the pros is that it maintains the momentum of the bowling performance. One of the cons is that the bowlers have already bowled an entire innings and have to do the same again almost immediately. They might be a bit tired, which could hand the advantage to the batting side if they can avoid losing early wickets. If the Australian batsmen had scored well after following on then England might also have needed to bat last on a pitch that may have started to break up. Batting last in a Test match is usually quite difficult.

I think Strauss is quite a cautious man and I think he decided that Australia’s strong batting display at Cardiff was enough evidence of ability for him not to want to risk them posting a huge second-innings score. England’s brittle second-innings batting performance at Cardiff provided further reason for not wanting to get into a run chase.

Strauss obviously wants to win the game but he also won’t want to lose it from this position. Test cricket isn’t just win-or-lose: there is also a third possibility, a draw (like at Cardiff). Often the biggest chance of winning a game is to give the side batting last a target that they might try to chase in risky fashion and get bowled out. However, if the batting side are good they might actually get the runs.  Too big a target and they won’t be tempted to go for it, too small and they might well reach it. Maximizing the probability of winning does not miminize the probability of losing in this situation. If England simply didn’t want to lose they would bat out time, accumulate a huge total and give Australia insufficient time to make the runs. England might still win in such a strategy but a draw becomes much more probable.

It was clearly Strauss’ judgement was that England needed more runs but he wanted to get them quickly enough to declare and try to force a result in the two remaining days. The England batsmen came out just before lunch to try to push on to a huge lead. They started very brightly but unfortunately both openers Strauss and Cook were out shortly after lunch. There then followed a very turgid couple of hours when Pietersen and Bopara struggled to score runs. Pietersen, usually a prolific hitter, apeared to be struggling with his Achilles injury while Bopara is clearly out of touch at this level. Both batsmen scratched around unconvincingly for most of the session and then got themselves out.

At 174-4 it was looking like another collapse might be on the cards and the Australians might have to chase a total under about 400, which appeared to me to be eminently achievable with two full days play available after Saturday. However, Collingwood and (especially) Prior batted superbly well together taking the score to 260-5 and then Flintoff and Collingwood carried it onto 311 before Collingwood was out.

Many members of the crowd were screaming for a declaration now, but the weather intervened. It had been getting very dark for some time and finally started raining about 6.30. The umpires called off play for the day with England at 311-6, a lead of 521 with two days left to play, a good position to be in by any standards.

Unless the weather turns very bad over the next two days then it seems to me a draw is a very unlikely possibility now. If England declare overnight and Australia can bat for two days they will score enough runs to win the game, but in doing so they will have to surpass by some margin the highest ever total reached in the last innings to win a Test match. Frankly, if they can do that they deserve to win! On the other hand, England have plenty of time to bowl them out even if a  bit is lost to the weather. I actually think Strauss’ decision to bat again was probably a good one and I think he should carry on batting tomorrow to get another 100 runs or so. There will still be time to bowl out the Ozzies, but the chance of them scoring enough to win the game is smaller.

I left the ground and walked to Paddington to get the train back to Cardiff and was home by 10pm. A very satisfactory day.

Postscript. I just looked at the scorecard of today’s play (Sunday) before posting this. England declared their innings closed on 311-6 and Australia went into bat this morning. At lunch they were 76-2. The odds are in favour of England winning, but Ponting is still in. It’s nicely poised.

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