It’s a shame the entertainment off the pitch at Lord’s wasn’t matched on it
England look set to continue their dominance after going 2-0 up in Ashes series
Michael Clarke of Australia looks on from the balcony during what was a painful second Ashes Test for his side against England at Lord’s. Photograph: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Just like next week’s Galway Festival for racing fans, the Lord’s Test marks the summer gathering of the cricketing tribes to watch, chat, eat, drink and enjoy everything that is good in the game.
From the bacon and egg ties of the MCC members to the picnicking hordes on the nursery ground, the constant hum of conversation and tinkle of glasses all around the great cricketing mecca marks the high water mark of the summer game.
The Irish invasion of St John’s Wood is always a feature and a walk around the ground will always involve meeting players past and present. Enjoying a glass of wine together were Alan Lewis, Jason Molins and Trent Johnston, who between them have captained Ireland on 136 occasions, while there are many who take advantage of the MCC balloting system to pick up one of the hottest tickets in the British sporting summer.
The media may complain about their lot every now and again, from freezing in Clontarf or Stormont in early summer to clearing dead insects out of press boxes in Sri Lanka, although there are never any complaints at Lord’s, where the best view in the house is matched by a gluttonous array of food of the Michelin star variety.
And looking after the 100-plus journalists and 40 photographers was Roscommon woman Maria O’Donoghue, who heads up the ECB media operations department. The media centre heaves with former greats, with Warne, McGrath, Botham, Willis and Holding amongst a bowling line-up that someone calculated had taken over 2,500 Test wickets between them.
Sitting regally above anyone else in terms of respect is Richie Benaud, going strong at 82 and receiving reverential treatment from everyone, including O’Donoghue , who simply describes him as one of life’s great gentlemen.
Neil Hannon and Thomas Walsh of The Duckworth Lewis Method also dropped by on Saturday to meet with commentator David “Bumble” Lloyd, who is one of a number of broadcasters to make cameo appearances on their fine new album Sticky Wickets.
Eavesdropping on the conversation, it was easy to pick up Lloyd’s knowledge of both music and musicians, including regaling Hannon and Walsh with some verses of Wirral outfit Half Man Half Biscuit’s eclectic songbook.
The entertainment out in the middle was no match, with the promise of the first Test at Trent Bridge proving a false dawn as England demonstrated their superiority to go two-nil up in the series, with just a draw needed from the final three rubbers to retain the Ashes urn.
Not that they will be happy with that, and they certainly look like continuing their recent dominance ahead of the back-to-back series that will see England head to Australia later in the year.
Australia’s batting has been the big problem, with some valiant displays by tailenders only glossing over a serious fall-off in both technique and application from the ones paid to hang around in the middle for more than just cameo appearances.
The influence of Twenty20 cricket on the side has been put across as one reason, and certainly the Big Bash League dominates their domestic season, with all-time low amounts of centuries being scored by batsmen in the four-day Sheffield Shield.
The lack of variety in Australian pitches nowadays was also put forward by batsman Usman Khawaja as another issue, with Ireland women’s coach and former international opening bat Jeremy Bray backing that up yesterday when talking of the blandness of pitches the last time he spent a season playing in his native land.
If the Ashes is proving far from competitive, well then tonight at Sydney Parade is likely to see a keenly contested match when the 1993 Pembroke team that won the Leinster Senior Cup host the league-winning YMCA side from the same year.
The game will act as a warm-up to Saturday’s RSA Leinster Senior Cup decider between the sides at Castle Avenue, although whether the discussion over the outcome of tonight’s game will finish in time is debatable. Play gets underway at 6.30pm, with the barbeque being lit soon after.