Things ain't what they used to be: THE FIRST TEST

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The Independent Online

How it was

Leather on willow, pink gin and picnics, and a poor performance by England... Summer officially arrives when the first ball of the first over is bowled at the "Home of Cricket".

How it is

Lord's has changed greatly since it first occupied its north London site in 1814. The Pavilion is now dwarfed by grandstands and a futuristic Media Centre, and the number of corporate boxes has grown exponentially.

Then there's the spectre of the Barmy Army. The writer Dominic Lawson – a member of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), which owns Lord's, for more than 30 years – calls the notorious band of England supporters a "travelling grotesquery".

"At one Test match I attended, some of these idiots spent a large part of the afternoon yelling at the greatest cricketer of the modern era, Shane Warne, that he liked being 'taken up the arse'," Lawson says. "It's not cricket."

Keith Bradshaw, the secretary and chief executive of MCC, says he is fighting this tide of thuggery and has banned banners, horns and fancy dress from the ground. "We're very conscious of preserving the very special atmosphere of the first Test. We do have a corporate element, which we limit, but all the people who come here are knowledgeable and passionate about cricket," Bradshaw insists.

Vital statistics

Lord's has a capacity of 28,500. For the first Test, MCC members and their guests are given 10,000 tickets, with 3,000 going to corporate hospitality. Remaining seats are available to the public at a cost of £40 to £65. Most are sold in a ballot.