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News

That morning-after feeling

A blustery mid-May morning, England making unspectacular progress against a moving ball - and not a murmur of protest in sight

A blustery mid-May morning, England making unspectacular progress against a moving ball - and not a murmur of protest in sight. It appears that one day of polite objection was as much as the Lord's faithful could stomach. As the inscription outside the East Gate reads: "Play up, play up, and play the game." Or disappear off for lunch after 40 minutes, of course, as had been the case on the first day.
The Grace Gates were hardly the hive of ketchup-bandaged activity that they had been on Thursday morning. Peter Tatchell and that open-topped bus were nowhere to be seen, although the MCC stewards could still be relied on, frisking the members with rather more vigour than usual. A pair of imposing but underemployed police horses kept guard for a time, but they had trotted off before the start of play. So far, so NW8.
Inside the ground, the morning-after feeling was summed up by a posse of policemen strolling along behind the Edrich Stand, with their fluorescent jackets draped nonchalantly over their shoulders. The presence of several members of the armed forces caused the odd raised eyebrow, but even they were strictly on ceremonial duty. Guarding the entrance to the new Grand Stand was Staff-Sergeant Franklin of the Royal Logistic Corps, one of many off-duty soldiers, sailors and airmen providing a hint of colour to the stewarding, and scoring a free day at the cricket in the process.
Sergeant Franklin was optimistically attempting to top up his suntan before flying out to the Gulf in December, but his efforts were as nothing compared with the Hawaiian-shirted Bermuda-shorted chap striding purposefully past the Mound Stand. Given the blustery weather, the look on his face suggested he was weighing up the benefits of keeping himself moving, against the windchill factor of over-exertion.
The oh-so-English conditions were playing havoc with the hospitality tents as well. The forlorn-looking Pimm's stand behind the museum stood empty and unloved, although the glut of picnic hampers dotted around Thomas Lord's roller and the WG Grace statue hinted at better times to come. The Moet tent behind the pavilion was faring slightly better, but sobriety seemed to be the order of the day.
That, of course, may have stemmed from the average age of the crowd. Once again, the schools of North London had come to a standstill as their pupils poured out of the classrooms and through the turnstiles. The lower Compton Stand had been invaded by a battalion from Elmhurst Primary School (marshalled by a pair of harassed teachers) whose falsetto squeaks were being amplified by the low roof above them.
The mob was momentarily silenced when Robert Key was adjudged caught behind, but the arrival of Grandpa Stewart soon cheered them up. When The Gaffer pulled Heath Streak to the Tavern Stand to get off the mark, the ear-splitting ultrasound would have dislodged a passing policeman's helmet as surely as a conker from a catapult.
That wasn't the only unfamiliar noise. When rain forced the players off just before lunch, the crowd was serenaded by Al Fresco, a New Orleans-style oompah band who marched jauntily around the perimeter in their white shirts and red baseball caps. They seemed to be a modern incarnation of the Sauce Works Band, who outplayed England at Headingley in 1986, which just goes to show that Lord's is moving - ever so slowly - with the times. They were hardly Atomic Kitten, but the kids seemed to think it was all right.
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden CricInfo.