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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Some people talk of making a pilgrimage to the holy turf of the home of cricket. For me it was about seeing the victorious England from a winter of triumph against Australia return to Lord's as holders of the urn, welcomed by a bursting crowd and glorious English sunshine.
I spent one part of the winter watching England from the confines of the couch, with an extra blanket for warmth, and another being in Australia, witnessing the demise of my home country as it handed the Ashes to England. It would surprise most people to know that I wished for a good England side; with all that it had achieved, a strong showing for its home fans is what they deserved.
A radio is the only companion required for a Test match at Lord's. Henry Blofield's outrageous descriptions on Test Match Special of the game in front of you may annoy in any other format or place but his pomp and pronunciation provide the perfect backing track to all things English in a day at Lord's.
Alastair Cook stood head and shoulders above his team-mates; a century on the opening day of Lord's would have been perfect but his nearly-100 nonetheless made the best impact. He was the only swimming rat when the ship seemed to be sinking in the opening session, and Cook carried his team and worked with Ian Bell to restore the English order.
Interplay I enjoyed
Eoin Morgan brought the Lord's crowd to life after Bell's fall for 52 runs. Prior to this Bell and Cook had shown caution in their pursuit of mending the English innings. It was Morgan who lit the fire, first against Rangana Herath: punishing him down the ground into the waiting laps of the MCC members, and then pushing the run-rate to a one-day level that had the crowd applauding.
Filling in the gaps
There is much to do at Lord's to pass the time. Some of this is always spent perusing the shop looking at souvenir after souvenir, thinking whether buying a paper weight with a bit of the turf hidden within it is a justifiable purchase, and how to explain this to the wife. Or there are the people, celebrities and eccentric Englishmen in full colour. Blazers are the choice garment at the pavilion but elsewhere you see the first signs of the end of winter as spectators wander the ground in shorts, revealing pale pairs of legs.
While making his way towards the practice nets during the second session, Steve Finn stopped in front of a large throng of school kids and signed every miniature bat, cap, ticket or poster, not leaving one kid without his scribble. On completion of this mammoth task he was loudly cheered by the crowd.
Shots of the day
Cook reached and went past his fifty with three fours off Dilhara Fernando who tried in vain to pepper the Ashes hero with short balls.
A full house greeted the sunshine that bathed Lords' to create an almost heavenly place to watch cricket. The sun warmed the spectators' necks as much as it warmed the playing field.
Marks out of 10
10. An almost-century, great bowling, attacking batting, a full house and the sun made this the best day of all the days I have attended at this sacred place of cricket.
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