June 16, 2014

Identifying the Lord's cricket fan

An anthropological guide that will help you pick out the rosy-cheeked chaps at HQ

"They said they didn't have the arugula salad, so I said just give me rocket then. And they did!" © PA Photos

Within mankind there exists an extraordinary sub-species that captivates, delights and enthralls naturalists and anthropologists: the Lord's cricket fan, or to give them their full Latin classification, homus cricketus.

Although this group's appearance has remained largely the same for 200 years, even through the relatively short period of a day's play in a Test match, this fascinating beast undergoes significant changes before regenerating itself seamlessly for its next foray into NW8.

Before play begins
To get the optimum view of the early stages of the Lord's cricket fan, it's best to position yourself in the vicinity of St John's Wood tube station at around 10.15am. It is here their migration ends and from where they emerge with their beautiful plumage on display. They are mainly white males between the ages of 21 and 80, but they all almost universally seem to look 52. Their faces are homely but determined as they set off down Wellington Road towards their Mecca, and a slight rouging of the cheeks can be determined in many cases. They are dressed in smart but raffish jackets, worn over collared shirts, which, to various degrees of success, cover up paunches of various degrees of prominence. Below the waist an array of tailored shorts and trousers can be viewed, but a pastel red is often favoured, and each one of this terracota-legged army carries with him one or sometimes two squarish bags laden with food and drink that have been foraged for in their natural habitat, the aisles of Waitrose.

The first session
Once in position in their seats - having apologised profusely and repeatedly to anyone else they have clambered over to get there - the Lord's cricket fan begins a precise ritual that involves rustling a lightly coffee-stained copy of the Daily Telegraph whilst making amiable conversation with their fellow spectators:

"Weather looks set, Marcus."

"Yes, Simon. Glorious. Not much in this pitch, though."

"No, no. Who's this Sri Lankan chap bowling?"

"No idea. Did you read Pietersen returned his ECB award for playing a hundred Tests?"

"I'm afraid I did. Frightful man. I can hardly believe these stories about him are true sometimes."

These sounds combine to create a gentle hum of contentment only mildly disturbed by the sound of corks starting to pop around midday.

The afternoon session
As this period of play develops, we can observe the redness of the Lord's cricket fan's cheeks spread to other areas of their anatomy - in particular the forehead and neck. This is in part related to their luxuriating in the sun - despite the compulsory panama hat being worn - and in part due to the earlier cork-popping. At this stage, the uniform of the homus cricketus is mainly intact, with just perhaps one button at the top and bottom of their now slightly rumpled shirts having been undone to accommodate the effects of the heat and the luncheon interval. Conversation now may also turn to some of the game's more pressing issues:

"Did you watch any of the IPL, Marcus?"

"Good heavens, no. Of course not. All mercenaries, the lot of them."

"Hmm, absolutely. By the way, did I mention we've outsourced our IT to Bangalore?"

"Good show. Oh bowled, Jimmy. Who's that out?"

"No idea."

The evening session
By this stage the homus cricketus has supped lustily upon its chosen source of afternoon tipple, a mysterious and bronze-coloured fluid known as "Pimms". Slight traces of sun cream applied in haste and far too late can be detected on the collar of their now substantially crumpled shirt, and a mild snoring may also be heard among older members of the species. Remnants of the Daily Telegraph and discarded pork-pie packaging can be spotted around their espadrilles and brogues as this proud physical specimen slumps back in its seat a little to recover from the day's exertions. At close of play all re-form their migratory group and stroll, occasionally a little unsteadily, back to the tube station to return, exhausted but satisfied, to their kingly lairs in the shires of their land.

James Marsh writes Pavilion Opinions. He is also a Tefl teacher whose students learn superlatives by being shown Graham Thorpe videos