<
>

At Lord's, a sea of green, a celebration of cricket, and a lesson for the future

play
Shoaib Malik confirms ODI retirement after Pakistan exit (1:16)

Former Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik says he has played his last game of ODI cricket, after Pakistan's final match of the World Cup (1:16)

It was hard to tell the greens apart at Lord's. There was the rich emerald green, spattered with luminous red spheres. There was also the rich forest green, with white sickle moons and stars. Suns, stars and moons scattered in a sea of green on a glorious day at the Home of Cricket.

There have been a few occasions when Lord's has shed its formal clothes for more casual gear: recent events that come to mind include the 2017 women's World Cup final and MCC XI v Afghanistan in the same summer. But it is hard to think of a match that has brought two sets of fans in such large numbers as to turn the historic ground into such a joyful celebration that spilled beyond cricket into a social and cricket occasion of great importance. Pakistan! Bangladesh! Pakistan! Bangladesh! The call and answer was perfect; it swirled around the stands in a rolling wave.

WATCH on Hotstar (India only) - How Pakistan beat Bangladesh

It took over the catering. Gone was the more traditional British fare and, instead, families chowed down on halal dishes and biriyani followed by gulab jamun, jalebi and kulfi.

It spread to the Members' Pavilion, where nearly 200 schoolchildren were allowed to sit in the same space as the egg-and-bacon brigade, MCC breaking with tradition for the first time in its 232-year history. Drawn from 14 schools in the district, their excitement at experiencing a World Cup match in one of cricket's most exclusive environments was palpable; they will not forget this in a hurry.

ALSO READ: Dobell - World Cup win can inject fresh (free to) air in English cricket

It reached further as the game started and the news filtered in that, should England qualify for the final at Lord's, Sky Sports will make the broadcast available on free-to-air television.

All through this men's World Cup, there has been a nagging feeling that it hasn't had widespread penetration into the general public's consciousness, that those of us in the middle of it are having a wild time at a fabulous party that's being held in a soundproofed warehouse.

And yet, here are signs that the game and its caretakers are waking up to the necessity of breaking with norms to welcome those who have not always been top of the VIP guest list.

Bangladesh are used to being treated shabbily by boards such as the ECB and Cricket Australia, who either don't host them for bilateral tours or cancel them after tentative plans have been made. This may be their first ODI at Lord's, but it is more damning that they have not played a bilateral series in England since 2010 and are not scheduled to visit until at least 2023 under the new Future Tours Programme (in Australia, it's even worse - they haven't played a bilateral series there since 2008). But, as they have shown throughout this tournament, they are marvellous guests, bringing a vibrancy and spirit to every match their team plays. They have an exciting and entertaining side boasting the world's best allrounder and deserve far more opportunities to play in both England and Australia.

To know what it means to them, just check out their social media accounts, filled with selfies in front of every iconic Lord's location. Their fans were doing the same outside, in between playing drums and dancing and filling the Nursery Ground with life and colour. Many have travelled from the USA and Canada - as many do for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka games - the flight times and costs being less prohibitive than they are for other locations.

And what of the children in the Pavilion? They sat and cheered, flags painted on their cheeks. They stood awestruck and laughing in the Long Room as players walked through, giving high-fives, on their way to the field. The smiles, wide throughout the day, widened even further when Kumar Sangakkara got into a seat among them. He will be the president of the MCC from October. Could he, along with all of the members, embrace this idea further: why not make this a regular feature and help a new generation to fall in love with the game?

The result of this match did not affect the fortunes of either team; Bangladesh had already been eliminated from the semi-finals' race, and Pakistan's slimmest of hopes evaporated when Tamim Iqbal turned the ball behind square leg for a single in the second over.

But don't you dare call this a dead rubber - it wasn't, strictly speaking, anyway. Lord's was teeming with life and the game would do well to learn the lessons on offer here today.