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As Lord's basked in a heatwave and spectators sought shade, the ground became a foreign country
Rob Smyth at Lord's
July 19, 2013
This was the kind of day Lord's rarely experiences: the sort of day when spectators, never mind players, needed to be weighed before and after play; when clothes transmogrified into wetsuits by midday. By the close of play, hotspots were visible on flame-grilled spectators all around the ground. There are even unconfirmed reports that for the first time in his life Alastair Cook produced a bead of sweat.
"I've been coming here since god knows when and it's the hottest I can remember," one member exclusively told ESPNcricinfo. "Bloody insufferable," barked another. The MCC Library does not keep a record of the hottest Lord's Tests - and it's one of the few things you cannot search on Statsguru - but 2013 must be right up there. On Friday, temperatures again pushed 30 degrees. The ground needed a Nivea Tent.
The demand for sunscreen was such that Lord's could probably have operated a reverse honesty box, choosing the particular price each customer paid. They settled for a blanket fee of £9, the same price as a large glass of Pimm's. Alcohol, even more than usual, was the Gatorade of the fans. It is often lamented that beer at sporting events tastes a little watery; here that would have been a virtue, such was the threat of dehydration. A lonely pasty salesperson - or, rather, a lonely person who was selling pasties - reinforced the shift in spectator priorities.
It was certainly not the day to get stuck in a tiny lift for over half an hour, as happened to a group that included Michael Vaughan just after tea. For those working at the ground - if not, surprisingly, for the bowlers on both sides - this was a day of seriously hard yakka.
Catering staff had reason to lament that their uniform shirt is black rather than white. Police officers were permitted to remove their body armour "because of the nature of the sport" but stewards had to sweat under heavy bibs all day. Some were not so unhappy. "I was born in Kenya, so I'm used to the heat," said one. "I'm loving it. I'm getting paid and I'm getting the sun as well."
The heat was such that, even more than usual, Lord's felt as much a social gathering as a cricket match: not so much the Lord's Test as the Lord's Festival. Even with 16 wickets falling, the on-field action sometimes felt an ambient backdrop to a huge picnic. Even Australia's pitiful collapse could not shift many spectators who preferred shade to schadenfreude. Lord's was a foreign country for the day, and the attitude of many mirrored the attitude sometimes expressed after a holiday in unfamiliar country: I loved it, but I never want to do it again.
Cricket's peculiar demographic meant that back-to-front baseball caps sat alongside panamas and flip-flops alongside blindingly shiny brogues. Not that they always coexisted contentedly: when one member caught sight of a topless man whose Levi's pants were showing above pink-and-white pinstriped shorts, he attempted to discern once and for all whether looks could kill.
The Pavilion was the usual extreme-fashion contest, with egg-and-bacon blazers and lurid trousers taking pride of place on this septuagenarian catwalk. The usual Pavilion dress code was relaxed slightly: whenever temperatures reach 85 degrees, a series of notices inform members that they are allowed to remove their jackets. Many members kept their jackets on even when they left the pavilion, as if to do otherwise would invite eternal damnation. There is less flexibility on top buttons and ties - at least officially - so many members went back to their schooldays by using their tie to hide an undone top button.
"If I hadn't got so fat I'd be able to loosen my top button," said a steward with a similar dilemma. "But it's fine; we have lots of water and we get regular breaks. It's just another day really. I'm a sunaholic, so I like it. Mind you, the supervisors get a bit funny about wearing sunglasses - we have to look prim and proper. It's like the Henley Regatta. It's Lord's, isn't it?"
Rob Smyth is the author of The Spirit of Cricket - What Makes Cricket the Greatest Game on EarthFeeds: Rob Smyth
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