I advise any non-cricket fans to skip this entry as it covers my three days at Lord’s for the beginning of the first test match against India. The 100th. between England and India. As a result there were a great number of famous past players who were to parading around, around the ground, in golf buggies. On Sunday morning.
The good faithful Ollie turned up each morning, in his’ friendly wheelchair van’, sharp at 8.30 after ‘my lovely’ had dressed me in all my usual cricket gear, Blazer; MCC tie together with a masquerade rose (in bud yellow with a streak of red which matched the ‘egg and bacon coloured’ tie! ) We encountered heavy traffic on the M25 and the Finchley Road on the Thursday and Friday but on both occasions managed to get to the ground in time for the first ball. My good helpful friend Paul Newman, having been alerted by Ollie on his mobile, kindly met me on each occasion and we made a quick visit to the disabled loo so I could start off with an empty bladder to make way for the champagne was to come.
In January, when our priority booking forms came through, I had purchased guest tickets for 14 friends or family having no idea whether I would be fit enough or not to go myself so had posted their tickets to them all in advance just in case. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to have made it this far and able to go and still enjoy myself
My guest for the first day was my oldest friend Geoffrey Hanscombe, (GAH) literally the oldest in both senses of the word – he gave me a job in my school holidays when I was 15 and we’ve been friends ever since. He is an absolutely marvellous old boy who will be 94 on August 4th.. I have been privileged to be invited to make a speech at his 70th, 80th and 90th birthday parties as well as his 65th wedding anniversary. He is also the person who absolutely insisted on paying for the magnificent private dinner party given for me for my 70th birthday at Rules restaurant. After last year we would meet regularly at Sheekey’s restaurant, just off Charing Cross Road and lunch on delicious fish washed down with two bottles of champagne. Even in his 90s GAH could hold his own with me in his capacity for champagne. I certainly miss those wonderful lunches. When inviting him to cricket, in the past, I’ve always met him outside Grace Gates but as I was due to arrive roughly at the same time, I arranged for the good Paul to do the honours. I told him to look out for an old gentleman wearing a beret with a string of onions round his neck. The onions were, of course, my little joke but the beret was something that GAH often wore, so he was easily recognisable. I’m glad to say that Geoffrey was on amazingly good form, in fact, I think he was probably better than I was as I had been constipated for the best part of a week. I left at the tea interval at 3.45 whereas Geoffrey had planned to stay on until 6.00 but as it started to rain just as I left so I suspect he also left early
England lost the toss and India put us in. We scored a respectable 107 for the loss of two wickets when rain stopped play just before tea, when, as I said, I had already left so was lucky enough not to miss any of the action.
On Friday, the second day. the weather was absolutely perfect. Fluffy white clouds broken by large areas of blue sky and sunshine throughout. England batted all day before declaring, with six overs to go, with a very respectable 474 for 8, after Pieterson had made a magnificent double century. England then put India in for the last six overs, obviously hoping to take at least one wicket. At the time I thought this was probably a mistake as they could have added another 30 or so runs to the score making a very difficult target for India to reach to avoid the follow-on (and so, in fact it) proved. In the event England failed to take an Indian wicket leaving India with a closing score of 17/0.
I had two guests on this second day, John Gray- who left his magnificent Bentley in our drive and travelled with me in the ambulance – and Simon Tulson. Alice was so thrilled to have this beautiful car sitting in our drive all day enhancing, our property, I think she would have happily left at there permanently!. Unfortunately Simon, being the conscientious chap he is, decided to slip into the office before coming to Lord’s and inevitably got snared up on some great drama and sadly did not arrive until just after I had left.. I was really sorry about it as he works so hard that he really needed a good day off, but at least I tried. John very kindly bought some Montecriso No 4’s, which I enjoyed smoking the following day.
Saturday is always the most popular day in a five-day test match because the scene is set usually one way or the other. Also, on this particular occasion we were privileged to see, the world’s greatest batsmen, after Don Bradman, Tendulkar, attempting to score his first century at Lord’s which would have been his 300th. in test cricket,|,but for him, he was disappointingly bowled out for 34 by Broad. He will now have to make a final attempt in India’s second innings. However Dravid saved the day for India with a fine century, at last getting his name on the, honours board in the Pavilion.
There were even more of my friends, on this particular day, sitting in the seats we have occupied for the last 40 years or so, the front row on the ground of the Warner stand. James Barnett; Paul Newman; Roger Goodwin; MC Patel with his two nephews;; Anthony Baine- Walker, with his regular guest’ the Cqlonel’ and, to my great surprise and delight. Jeremy and Suzy Brinton.
These, of course, in addition to my two guests Karyl and Monty who sat with me all day. Karyl and Monty produced, a wonderful picnic, to which, unfortunately, I did not do justice due to my bloated stomach. Another old faithful, Judith, a friend of Paul Newman’s â€“ who. as a result, has become a good friend of mine – was unable to come, but very generously sent me a bottle, of champagne, none of which, I enjoyed (or was even offered!) but at least the boys, no doubt, enjoyed it! Outside, on the lawn at lunchtime, like bees round a honey pot. were the two generous brothers, Bob and Groff Ledermsn feeding and watering the 5000 from their much beloved brother’s Memorial bench.
Amongst the crowd, with the brothers Ledaman, were many of my fellow Worlington members/ Alex Sexton; PJ Cooper; Roger Dalzell; Chris Wykes and I’m sure there were one or two others I have failed /to mention
The cricket was a little more exciting today and England bowled magnificently getting the Indians all out for just 286 (12 past the point at which England could have forced the follow-on) and the day ended with England on 15 without loss. No doubt we will knock on a couple of hundred runs or so before declaring and then leaving India a slightly possible achievable target but with England with enough time to an attempt to bowl out the opposition by the end of the fifth day.
For me, as I say, it was a great personal triumph and I was delighted to have survived three days without undue exhaustion and with the pleasure of seeing so many old friends again. Heaven knows what I will do next year, if I’m still around. I would love to think I will be able to go again next year as all the staff with whom I am involved, and in particular Steve Crocker, who is in charge of the wheelchair area, are now very familiar with me and my routine and are very helpful and accommodating. . We sweep into Gate 6 with the ambulance where the staff are likely to say good morning Professor and never even check my membership card I then drive the short distance in the wheelchair enclosure passing in front of the pavilion where Steve Crocker again greets me ‘good morning Professor’ and assures mr that he had kept a batch of seats and space for me in the Wheelchair Enclosure. Everyone is so immensely kind. welcoming and helpful that it is a great pleasure to be back there.