Watching cricket at Lord’s is a stylish but pricey experience

2008-07-22 00:00

I returned last week from London where I was fortunate to watch the first Test match between South Africa and England at Lord’s.

While I have played at Lord’s a few times, this was my first visit as a spectator and it was a memorable experience.

I was amazed at how professionally everything is run from the time you walk out of the tube station to taking your seat at the ground.

Of course, the downside is that it’s an expensive experience. Open stand tickets at the nursery end cost 75 pounds (about R1 125), a beer 3,50 (R52) and a packet of chips 2,50 (R37).

The Lord’s spectators are know-ledgeable, passionate cricket supporters and seem to appreciate all the intricacies of Test match cricket. Even when South Africa were battling it out to save the Test match, and the action was slow, they appreciated every piece of good cricket.

It was superb, intense cricket and the pressure the South African batsmen were under in the second innings was almost tangible. Their initial bravado — after being bolstered by the media before the Test match — wore off very quickly as the game unfolded over the first two days and the Proteas were forced to eat a generous slice of humble pie. All credit to them, though, as Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie led them on a legendary fight-back, which saved the Test match and gave us spectators much to cheer about.

During South Africa’s innings I spent some time at the back of the stand at the Nursery End. The Lord’s ground staff cordon off an area there where there is an enormous television screen. This means you don’t need to miss a ball and is an excellent place to watch the game if you are meeting friends.

There are a number of rules for watching cricket at Lord’s. This is not the place for the fancy dress you see at Headingley and other English grounds, but, ironically, you are allowed to pop a bottle of champagne in the stands. Leaving your seats only at the end of the over is strictly enforced and talking on cell phones in the stands is forbidden. All of this contributes towards making watching cricket at Lord’s a real pleasure. It wasn’t difficult to spot the South Africans in the crowd, dressed very casually in contrast to the Lord’s regulars, many of whom wore sports jacket and ties and enjoy dressing up for the occasion irrespective of where their seats are.

In my opinion the South Africans are a better side than the English and their convincing performance at Headingley confirmed this. The Protea bowlers were outstanding in the second Test and the batsmen were controlled and disciplined, and gave the English bowling attack no chance.

There is no doubt that some — as Ray White pointed out in the Weekend Witness — are not looking like the professional athletes they should be, but one hopes their obvious talent will let them get away with that.

The next Test match is a week away and the South African team will enjoy the break and the English hospitality. They are a step closer to winning this crucial Test series and I hope I’ll enjoy the spectator role right to the end.

• Neil Johnson, a former Natal, WP, Hampshire and Zimbabwean Test cricketer, lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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