Saturday, April 23, 2011

Part the XXIX: Where Nick goes to the Home of Cricket

People who have known me for a while will know that I have an odd obsession with the sport of Cricket.  When  I was younger, my father and I caught an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus that had a cricket sketch.
As an American and factoring in that I was about six at the time, I was naturally intrigued by this odd sport that resembled a combination between baseball and golf.  Then again, my family was still without internet at the time and a lack of info about the sport led to me forgetting about it.  Fast forward about eight years and Fox Sports World (now the Fox Soccer Channel) started showing older one day international (ODI) cricket matches.  By this time, I had purchased a book that had the rules of every major sport of the world in it.  Slowly but surely I began to watch and teach myself the game.  Further help came when I got to know a friend of mine of Indian descent who taught me more about the sport including how to bat and field.  By the end of the summer, I was a cricket fan.  By the end of my first year, fall semester at Gettysburg, I was passing boring classes watching cricket on ESPN 3 during breaks and trying to figure out where to get my hands on bats and balls in order to introduce the sport to my friends.  

Well, if you have been reading the blog since the beginning, you know that my first major purchase when I moved to England was a set of bats, wickets and balls.  Some of us in the program began playing pickup games at the Royal Crescent here in Bath.  During the recent ODI World Cup, I could be found in a pub watching live or at home late at night watching highlights on the BBC.  But still, I hadn't been to a match live.  That changed on Thursday the 21st.  

I left Bath at seven in the morning and arrived at Lord's Cricket Ground just in time for the start of the 50 over  one day match between the local Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) Select XI against Scotland's National Team.  
Founded by Thomas Lord in 1787, the current ground's location and layout dates back to 1814.  One of the few things to survive this original set up is the famous Victorian Pavilion that lends the Pavilion End of the ground its name.  
By the time the match had started, I realized that people don't really watch the cricket.  Considering that a match takes about 8 and a half hours with a lunch break and a tea break at 4 in the afternoon, you can do just about anything and not miss too much.  In my time at the match, I sampled a few different ciders, read the day's issue of the times, and even worked on a rough draft of a 1500 word paper due Monday.  
At the other end, known as the Nursery Ground for the old tree farm that used to be there, looms the famous media center that was added for the 99 World Cup.

Looking Down on the pitch from my seat.

MCC at bat.

I had trouble finding the scorecard stand and had to wait until after the lunch break to get one.  When I did though, they actually gave me one that already had MCC's stats for the match printed on it.  Imagine getting to a baseball game late but when you go to get a program with a scorecard, they give you one filled out up to the point you arrived.  Yeah, its kind of like that.

These fellows struck me as good examples of the fans at the cricket match.  At the start of the match, they were dressed nicely.  Most had button-down shirts or polos.  By the second hour, each man was bringing back quite a few beers for themselves from the refreshment stand.  By the second hour of the match, it was becoming quite hot.  Most of the men, no matter their age or build, had their shirts off.  These boys as well as everyone else continued drinking.  By this point, I too had had a pint of cider.  By the end of the match, one of these fellows was dancing the cha cha tohis ringtone and another had been warned about being thrown out after accidentally throwing in shoes off the balcony onto the pitch.

Stuart Chalmers of the Scottish Team celebrates his first career century (100+ runs in a match) at Lord's

In the end, Scotland won the match by four wickets and basically completed a hell of a comeback.  They started their innings less than stellar and lost a few early wickets.  They were nowhere near the run rate required to win for much of the match.  As MCC's bowlers tired though, Scotland took over and garnered a much deserved win.  I can honestly say that Lord's was a great experiences.  It is one of the few places in the world where you can see people multitasking while watching a live sporting event.  The stadium is also famous for basically being Cricket's Yankee Stadium and to go there was a bit of a dream come true for me.  In the Museum after lunch break, I also got to see some interesting pieces of cricket history.
This Sparrow was famously "bowled out" (read:killed) when it was hit by a ball during a match at Lord's in 1936.  For some reason, they decided to stuff it and display it at the grounds.
Perhaps the most important item at the museum.  The famous Ashes Urn that England just won back from Australia in a test series that took place in the weeks leading up to my moving to England.  The story dates back to 1882 when Australia beat England on English soil.  One paper wrote an obituary for English cricket saying it died that day and that the body would be buried.  Later on, a bail (a small piece of wood placed on a wicket stump) and perhaps a whole stump from the match were burned and the ashes put in this small urn.  Since then, England and Australia have contested each other for this tiny trophy every few years.  This is important as it is one of the few examples where the most important trophy in a sport is also one of its smallest.

I must say, Live cricket is quite interesting, if not an exercise in patience.  On the bright side, at least I got a good tan while I was there!  Plus, lets face it, the cricket style in pretty awesome if I do say so myself.

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