I wouldn’t describe myself as a cricket fan. My friends wouldn’t describe me as a cricket fan. Yet I am.
Let me explain.
As a gentleman of a certain vintage, there was a time when watching sport on TV – particularly during the summer holidays – was easy and free. This included test cricket.
During this era, and I’m talking the 1980s here, test cricket could be quite dull, often uninspiring but eminently watchable.
I was therefore one of the many who watched transfixed as Botham, Dilley and Bob Willis took the Australians to task at Headingley in 1981. I watched days later as Botham, this time with the ball, demolished Australia at Edgbaston.
Likewise, I listened on the radio to Test Match Special in 2005 when Freddie Flintoff bowled the perfect over to Ricky Pointing in the 2nd Ashes Test Edgbaston. A test England won by two runs. The dulcet tones of Henry Blofeld and Jonathan Agnew bringing the game to life– Blowers and Aggers – now a fond memory since Blowers retired to the speaker circuit.
More recently in 2019, I listened on a beach in Croatia to England win the Cricket World Cup in a pulsating final.
I know the game, I understand many of the complexities and one day may well understand all of the fielding positions – cow corner, backward square leg, anyone?
Imagine then my delight to be invited in the summer of 2022 to Lord’s Cricket Ground the home of MCC and the home of cricket, not just for lunch, but for a privileged view of the pitches, up close, and allowed to walk on the hallowed turf – something very few non-cricketers get to do.
This was a truly unique opportunity, being led through the science and the history of the pitches with Karl McDermott, the head groundsman. Karl is a great supporter of Perennial which is how the charity benefit from this level of unfettered access.
For over an hour we walked on the pitches with Karl providing a level of detail which is the preserve of one of the finest groundsmen in the world. The grass was like a carpet and the science and planning behind it was wonderfully described in loving detail by a man at the top of his profession.
Part way through the tour we were joined by Mike Gatting, ex England Captain, who shared with us his love of Lord’s alongside one or two stories of his Lord’s innings. Guests were too polite to talk about the ball of the century bowled by Shane Warne, not at Lord’s, but at Old Trafford in 1993.
I haven’t stopped talking about that day since. It ranks as one of the most stand out sporting experiences of my life to date and I have a few others. Rugby League World Cup Final 2022, Arsenal vs Manchester Utd at Highbury and that Thierry Henry goal, standing on the Kop, and many Wales games at both the Principality Stadium and the old Arms Park. But actually, being out there and having the proximity to a place of history and world renown ranks is right up there.
The extraordinary thing is that I have the opportunity to do it all again this year-and you can join me there.
Perennial will be running the same event, with the same unparalleled access on 5 July 2023.
I can guarantee that, like me, this experience will be one that you talk about for years to come.