First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
The Bicentenary Celebration match at Lord's between the Marylebone Cricket Club and the Rest of the World, comprising of past legends and present superstars, was always going to be impossible to resist. The headline act was obviously Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan v Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, but the participation of tremendous cricketers such as Rahul Dravid, Adam Gilchrist, Yuvraj Singh, Saeed Ajmal, and Brett Lee, enhanced our expectations of the match to another level.
Although Yuvraj played extremely well for his 132, Aaron Finch's unbeaten 181 was the stand-out batting performance. It enhanced his reputation within the international cricket community, as well as public opinion about his future prospects. He consistently scored at more than a run a ball, and was the cornerstone of the MCC chase. His innings was split into three portions: an initial assault (in tandem with Tendulkar), a period of consolidation in the middle overs after a minor collapse, and finally a spell of uninhibited, explosive, attacking strokeplay that sealed the game for his team. It was truly a masterclass in modern, attacking batsmanship, and was a joy to watch. Opposition bowlers across the world will be dreading facing an Australian opening pair of Finch and Warner!
Saeed Ajmal was another MCC player who turned the game on its head - his first spell of four wickets for five runs was an outstanding display of the guile that has made him such a dangerous prospect to face. He slammed the brakes on the ROW innings, which had got off to an explosive start, when he ripped a doosra past an advancing Adam Gilchrist, followed by his dismissals of Tamim Iqbal, Kevin Pietersen, and his international team-mate, Shahid Afridi. Rest of the World collapsed to 68 for 5 in 12 overs, and large sections of the crowd did their best to remind Ajmal that they would like the match to last all day rather than finish around lunchtime. Tendulkar seemed to share their concerns, and duly replaced Ajmal with the rather more gentle spin of Aaron Finch!
Today was clearly Tendulkar's show, let there be no doubt about that, and he was in imperious form, stroking the ball to all parts of the ground as he motored along confidently, with cries of "Sachin, Sachin!" echoing around Lord's. The crowd was convinced that he would finally join the pantheon of greats that have scored a century at Lord's, and in an ideal situation he would have, but on 44 he under-edged Murali onto his stumps. Time seemed to stand still as a wave of shock washed over the crowd. Deafening silence. Then, every single spectator, regardless of their race, creed, or nationality, rose one last time to salute a living legend - the man who achieved everything that a cricketer could dream of.
As live sport goes, that was one of the most emotional moments I have ever witnessed. The noise died down as the enormity of the event dawned on the spectators. Then, Brian Charles Lara strode out of the pavilion with his characteristic swagger, and the ground rose in unison once again to give the legend a standing ovation. In these precious moments, there was a real sense of: "the King is dead, long live the King!" These two men were the Colossus that bestrode the cricketing world for a generation and inspired millions of people. Today, they were reminded one last time of how much respect, love and admiration we have for them.
For most of the first innings, the charismatic West Indian fast bowler Tino Best was fielding in front of where we were sitting in the Tavern Stand. He was immediately won over by the crowd when a group of young boys started singing "We love you Tino, oh yes we do", to the amusement of the rest of us. As he turned around, laughing and waving at the boys, a witty group of lads took the opportunity to shout out, "Mind the windows, Tino," referring to his infamous and extremely humorous exchange of words with Andrew Flintoff a few years ago! Cue widespread laughter, which only increased in magnitude after he comically misfielded the subsequent ball, and ended up in a tangled heap as the ball trickled under him into the boundary rope.
Shot of the day
The fourth ball of Peter Siddle's fourth over was a length ball that Tendulkar leaned into with an effortless grace, punching the ball straight back past Siddle with impeccable timing. As it crashed into the boundary rope at the Pavilion End, the crowd hoped it was a sign of things to come!
Quite simply, it was a brilliant crowd. Everyone seemed to understand the significance of the match - it was our last chance to see the players that we had grown up idolising, and everyone was determined the make the most of the opportunity. Emotions ran high, and we tried to show the players, notably Lara, Tendulkar, Dravid, Warne, and Murali, how much they meant to us. Dravid was given a standing ovation when he walked in, was bowled first ball, and was given a standing ovation as he walked off. Certainly, he seemed surprised by the ovation after getting a golden duck, and was a little unsure of how to react as he trudged off for the last time.
Although they took the players off for a short rain delay, credit must be given to the umpires for keeping the players on the field and allowing play to continue despite some consistent drizzling. It was a good example of sensible officiating, and was appreciated by everyone in the crowd.
An outstanding match that had everything: exceptional batting, bowling and fielding. It was the perfect cocktail of young and old, and served as a very good reminder that although form may be temporary, class is permanent.
Marks out of ten
9. I was very disappointed that Warne wasn't able to take the field and bowl, which took the gloss off what was otherwise an extremely exciting and enjoyable day at the Home of Cricket.
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Fram is a cricket-crazy A level student who tries to compensate for his lack of talent with the bat, with a passion for cricket-writing. He loves talking cricket with just about anyone who will listen, and most people who won't! He never feels a trip to the UK is complete until he makes his annual pilgrimage to Lord's!
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