Seizing the moment
This C&G final has given county cricket the chance to grab its moment in the spotlight and benefit from the buzz surrounding the game, in what has been an extraordinary summer. A Lord's one-day final is a showcase for the county game; but today was another example of how the entire cricketing structure is feeding off the current success of the England team.
In recent years it has been a challenge to sell out the final of the C&G: after the midsummer Twenty20 but now people are grasping any opportunities to get a fix of the latest `must-have' sport. With most of the tickets for the Ashes Tests long gone - and those still available requiring a second mortgage to obtain - people are looking for alternative ways to watch their heroes.
County cricketers are getting more used to playing in front of full-houses since the introduction of Twenty20, but a capacity Lord's crowd is something uniquely different. Just ask Sean Ervine, as he left the field to a standing ovation after his brilliant century. This year's crowd was a colourful mixture - of course keeping within the limits that come with a match a Lord's. A lot of the colour came courtesy of the sponsor's hats, which were offered at every conceivable location from St John's Wood Tube station to the Grace Gates.
The packed stands sounded as though they contained an even spread of support for Hampshire and Warwickshire. The cheer for Ashley Giles when he came into bowl was only slightly quieter than the roar that greeted Kevin Pietersen's arrival at the crease. These England stars will have brought a fair few neutrals down to the ground, as any chance to see them in flesh is well worth it.
Pietersen, now known seemingly nationwide as simply `KP,' had made a real effort for the final, thoughtfully doing away with the blue streak in his hair and appearing with blond instead. He obviously didn't want to clash with all those hats. Sadly, for the neutrals and Hampshire fans, his innings was a brief affair but it took a stunning catch at deep mid-wicket from Giles to dismiss him. What Pietersen would give to be able to hold any sort of catch this summer. Maybe there will be some tips flying his way from Giles, when the England squad meets up at The Oval next week.
The manner in which the public is becoming absorbed by cricket was evident walking around the ground. Mini matches were springing up on pavements and car parks, as kids tried to recreate some of the scenes which have left them captivated in recent weeks. In the Lord's shop, a father and son were casually browsing until they got to the DVD section: the first one the boy went for... "The Greatest Test".
That young boy represents the next generation of supporters (and potentially players) and, now they have been hooked by the game, it is vital that they are not let go. The signs at Lord's were promising. There was certainly a different feel from crowds in recent years. New supporters were on show today, a sign that they are ready to give all cricket a go, not just exhilarating Test matches.
Of course, cricket at Lord's is about more than just about the game and there were plenty of signs showing the social aspect. The "Champagne, oyster and seafood bar" is not a food outlet that you would find at many other grounds around the country but it did a roaring trade during the lunch interval, while the remaining crowd was entertained by a marching band - with some of its participants attempting a jig, of sorts, in front of the Grandstand. The mid-innings entertainment could, perhaps, still do with some work...
But these idiosyncrasies are all part of this day out at Lord's. It just wouldn't be the English season without them. This final marks the end of an era in many ways, as this tournament starts with group stages next season, and does away with the straight knockout format. However, thankfully for the players and supporters, the final will still be played at Lord's. Cricket may be changing but there are some traditions which are worth preserving.
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo