Poignant Memories of Lord's; One Hundred Lord's Tests - A Celebration of the Home of Cricket. by Jonathan Rice (Methuen, Pounds 19.95). Reviewed by Ross Reyburn

Article excerpt

Byline: Ross Reyburn

Perhaps one should take comfort from the fact terrible sporting sequences invariably end at some stage. But with an eagerly anticipated Ashes battle about to commence, it is disturbing to recall the disastrous fact that England have just beaten Australia once at Lord's, the home of cricket, since 1896.

Possibly it is due to the reality those from Down Under have fewer opportunities to grace the famous ground for Australians, as well as many other overseas cricketers, seem to have found the setting more inspirational than the home side.

A glorious exception surfaced in 1934 when the Yorkshire left-arm spinner Hedley Verity took full advantage of a wet wicket to record the unprecedented Test match feat of taking 14 wickets for 80 runs in a day 'making the ball lift and turn almost at will.' The great Bradman fell twice to Verity on June 25 that summer and England dismissed the the tourists for 284 and 118 to record victory by an innings and 38 runs. Astonishingly it was to prove the only time in the 20th century they beat Australia at Lord's.

Verity's match is neatly recalled in Jonathan Rice's novel cricket book One Hundred Lord's Tests, which provides intriguingly-written summaries as well as scorecard details of the 100 Tests played at the home of the Marylebone Cricket Club from 1884 to England's West Indies win last summer. Don't be confused by the fact the current match v Pakistan is England's 100th Test at Lord's - in 1912, the Australia v South Africa Triangular Test was the solitary Test played at cricket's headquarfters not involving the home country.

Although essentially a record of on the field deeds, the publication's photographs offer poignant memories. A shot of the jubilant Calypso-singing West Indian supporters in 1950 are a happy reminder of the days when you could sit on the grass watching a Test. The older ground photographs offer glimpses of The Tavern before those addicted to the great god profit destroyed one of the most famous meeting places in all England.

In a book produced in partnership with the MCC, you don't expect an objective assessment of the way Lord's has lost its soul to commercialism and corporate hospitality. In recent years, Edgbaston's coliseum atmosphere has proved far more inspirational for England's players. But where can match the visual appeal of Lord's where the magnificent Victorian pavilion blends so well with the futuristic NatWest Media Centre and elegant new Mound and Grand Stands offering outstanding examples of modern sports stadium architecture? …