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18 July 1999
Nash makes himself at home
Just when England supporters thought it was safe to emerge from the beer tent with a smile on their faces comes a most feared event: the Lord's Test.
Why is Lord's such an unsuccessful hunting ground for England? Against the big four (Australia, West Indies, Pakistan and South Africa) we have won only two of 33 Tests since 1962.
Playing on the best and most famous cricket ground in the world should be something to inspire every Englishman and daunt the opposition. Bizarrely, the reverse seems to be true, though the reason is not straightforward. To me it is a lot of little things that add up to something which affects our performances.
Playing at Lord's is a unique experience, something every cricketer would love to say they have done. Even empty, there is an aura about the ground that makes you feel privileged to be there.
While fielding, if you take out a divot with your knee, you feel you should patch it up, and when scratching your mark at the start of your run-up you feel guilty if you make too much of a mess.
The walk through the Long Room makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Every player will be thinking there is nowhere better to perform or do something special, something that will get you on those famous honours boards on the walls of both dressing rooms.
Whether playing for Middlesex or England, though, you never get the feeling you are totally at home. The ground belongs to MCC and their members, not Middlesex or England. This you are made aware of. This attitude adds a bit of coldness and there always seems to be someone telling you you can't do this or can't do that.
The best players handle the distractions well and Lord's seems to have brought out the best in them. Ian Botham is the most successful bowler on the ground, having taken seven five-wicket hauls, and Graham Gooch the most successful batsman, scoring six hundreds.
One opposition bowler who rose to the occasion and has another chance this week is New Zealand's Dion Nash. In taking 11 for 169 five years ago, he achieved the third-best bowling figures by an overseas player at Lord's, bettered only by Bob Massie and Sonny Ramadin.
Speaking to Nash this week, he spoke of Lord's being a special place where, as a young cricketer, he wanted to play. Playing at Lord's again, though, is something he did not feel he would achieve, having spent two years struggling to overcome a back complaint that was eventually diagnosed as a burst disc. Sadly, this injury prematurely ended his time with Middlesex.
As is often the case, however, once the correct diagnosis is made, progress is quick and he soon returned to the Northern Districts side as a batsman/off-spinner. The next time I saw his name in the papers he was New Zealand captain. He said that was circumstance more than anything else (Stephen Fleming was injured) but it was a challenge he enjoyed and one that was a good experience.
This summer he does not carry that burden, so returning to the visitors' dressing room at Lord's and seeing his name on the wall will be satisfying. He hopes it will inspire his team-mates to join him up there.
His attitude, and that of the New Zealand team, is to make the most of playing at Lord's - it may be their last or only chance. Kiwi tours to England are not as common as they would like but, most importantly, Nash wants to enjoy it as much as he did in 1994. A similar attitude to this by the England players would be the one most likely to produce the result most of us want.
Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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