Deep into what used to be Cross Arrows time the Bob Willis Trophy this week, its purpose not very clear and its timing a bit odd, but a trip to Lord’s with the feel of spectating now quasi-normal something to be thankful for. In the decade or so since Anthony Meredith’s readable appreciation of the ground was published, a new Warner Stand, and now the redeveloped Nursery End, which with the ground in empty cathedral mode, came as a pleasant surprise.
Lower level seating is a lot more open looking towards the pavilion, a 270 degree panorama with the naked eye, which may not be the first thing you think of looking the other way given the height of the top tier. Personal taste obviously, but the pavilion remains the most aesthetically pleasing backdrop to watching at Lord’s, a 19th century structure, something from another world in a ground largely rebuilt since the 1980s .
It is also more open behind at the Nursery End with demolition of an older bar adjacent to the shop; a more expansive feel and a contrast to the tighter spaces behind the pavilion. Prominent, not this day but this summer the Veuve Cliquot kiosk, offering spectators a bubbly Jeroboam (£)370. Quite why the 300cl bottle should be more than twice the price of one with half its contents something of a minor mystery, maybe it’s an in-joke among patrons.
But a part of this world whatever the reason for it, and one pointer of course, as to how much cricket’s audience, in London particularly, splits between those for whom a day at the Test, and those who go at other times. In 1980 watching Graham Gooch make his first century for England was within the budget of this then one student, standing in front of the Tavern. In 2022 if not match day staff, cricket for those on a limited budget is largely white ball games, conceivably the Oval Test 5th day, if there is one.
Not great and the direction of travel on this one has, if anything, unfortunately quickened in recent seasons, regular ticket prices for Tests at the Home of Cricket a magnum, up from a bottle in the middle of the last decade. Which for red-ball followers leaves the County Championship, still most of the cricket scheduled at Lord’s, tickets, as elsewhere, not expensive. With streaming and a capacity for good fourth-day finishes it has a better story to tell than some give it credit for.