A pilgrimage to England’s ‘home of cricket’
Sri Lankan batsman Dinesh Chandimal plays a shot during a Test cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka. (Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press)
The sport of Test cricket is unlikely to ever qualify for the Olympics. With each match lasting up to five days, the closing ceremony would be long over before the teams finished battling it out for a place on the podium.
Non-Commonwealth citizens might scratch their heads at the concept of a game that can be played for five days and still end in a draw, but few summer pastimes are as essentially English as the sight of white-clad cricket players -- whether it be an international match, county versus county, or amateurs playing a weekend game in a local park or village green. Cricket is also nothing short of a religion in places such as India and Sri Lanka, where cricket players are superstars and big matches bring daily life to a standstill.
Lord's, a magnificent cricket ground in north London's leafy St John's Wood district, is considered among devotees as the "home of cricket". It’s been hosting cricket games since 1814 and is home to the Marylebone Cricket Club, the guardians of the game’s often arcane laws. It also offers plenty of opportunities to bone up on your knowledge of wickets (the three upright sticks the bowler has to hit with the ball to dismiss the batsman), googlies (unpredictably spinning balls), slip-fielding positions (fielders positioned close to the batsman) and ducks (batsmen that get out without scoring).
While the 2012 Games will be the biggest event on London's summer sporting calendar – even Lord’s will be momentarily occupied with hosting the Olympic archery competitions -- the UK's favourite warm weather game will not spend the Olympic period locked in the pavilion.
England, who top the ranks of Test-playing nations, is currently playing a series against second-ranked South Africa, including a clutch of one-day matches (some of which start in the afternoon and end in the evening for added atmosphere) and 20/20 games (which last only a few hours), and their matches will take place all over Great Britain. With their emphasis on big hitting -- the complete opposite of the patience and discipline needed in a Test match -- 20/20 games are a great introduction for those new to the game.
Visitors to the UK can also catch a game at Lord's Tavern, a pub and restaurant located next to the historic ground that is open year-round and has multiple TV screens showing live cricket games from around the world. The place is so synonymous with the game that it has its own member’s club – The Lord’s Taverners – which raises money for youth sports through special fundraising events and charity cricket matches.
The cricket season runs until late September, so if you can’t make a game elsewhere, then having a pint at Lord’s, soaking up this most English of games’ atmospheres, will do just fine.