Lord's Diary: Stephen Brenkley


Thank their Lord for the main event: it's Thirsk v West Meon

If you want tradition, history and all of those other quixotic elements important to cricket, the match to watch this season is between Thirsk and West Meon. Thirsk and West Meon you say, with a question mark followed by an exclamation mark. Indeed. Forget Eton v Harrow, the 200th anniversary of which is being marked this year, or Oxford v Cambridge, first played in 1827, or even, current events being important, England v Australia. Thirsk v West Meon could be said to be where it all began and where it all ended.

Thomas Lord, after whom the most famous ground in the world is named, was born in Thirsk, the North Yorkshire market town, and died and is buried in West Meon, the East Hampshire village. This year is the 250th anniversary of Lord's birth at 14 Kirkgate, a small terraced house, which is now Thirsk Museum. Jeremy Sturges, fixtures secretary and prolific scorer for West Meon, spotted this two years ago and set the wheels in motion. "They were the driving force behind it," said George Gifford, Thirsk's chairman. "We had almost agreed on the game when the idea of playing it at Lord's came up. We managed to seal it when Roger Knight, the MCC chief executive, came up here to unveil a plaque on the Lord house."

Knight was entranced with the idea and so on 25 August, on the Nursery Ground, the two teams based in the places which bookended Lord's life will line up against each other for the first time. Thirsk, members of the York Senior League with a vibrant youth policy and a team of Yorkshiremen, should be favourites against West Meon, who have one Sunday social side.

Peter Moore, Meon's veteran off-spinning all-rounder and captain, said: "I don't think a single member of our team thought they'd be going to Lord's with a kitbag over their shoulder. We've got a squad of about 20 and they're all suddenly available. We'll pick the best team, but within that you have to account for loyalty." Exciting though this occasion is, Lord's links with both places were actually transient. He left Thirsk for Norfolk at three, and retired to Meon in 1823, dying there nine years later at 76. In neither place did he play or promote cricket.

Boycott goes on the front foot

Talking of tradition, it has already become one that the Cowdrey Lecture is given on the eve of the main Test of the summer at Lord's. This year's version, the fifth, was delivered by Geoff Boycott, who was in usual challenging mood. He castigated the ICC for being slow to change the regulations governing Test matches (suggesting four-day matches), called for Bangladesh and Zimbabwe to be kicked out of Test cricket, virtually said that Muttiah Muralitharan throws, and advocated a Twenty20 World Cup.

Geoffrey also pointed out that he was the first batsman to face a ball in a limited-overs international (and the first man to be out). While this is almost perverse considering his reputation for blocking, he lived up to it by scoring eight in 37 balls, a strike rate of 21.62. He did not mention that that match in Melbourne in 1971, arranged because the Test was washed out, was one of 40 eight-ball overs. Might that be an idea for the modern game?

Bedser Twins a class double act

At 9.20am last Thursday morning, a Ford Mondeo slowly pulled up at the back of the Warner Stand. Out stepped, in unison like Torvill and Dean, the Bedser Twins, Sir Alec and Eric. They did not alight as quickly as once they might have done, probably because they were 87 on 4 July, but they were still straight-backed and imposing. Before they could reach for their jackets in the back seat, however, a queue of autograph hunters formed. The brothers extended their arms, took the books and signed, as they have been doing for 60 years.

Aussies go into safety mode

As the batsmen made the customary walk through the Long Room at Lord's yesterday they did so through an ad hoc roped passage. None of the usual mingling among MCC members. This ditching of tradition was simply because the Long Room was so packed the players were virtually having to squeeze their way by, as if at the January Sales. Australia had asked for the cordon before the match but were turned down until sheer weight of numbers made it common sense. Although their request was concerned with crowds rather than security, they are understandably worried about safety. The players' wives have been given a specific briefing about what and what not to do in London.

Giles out twice with one ball

The mode of Ashley Giles' first-innings dismissal was officially changed yesterday from hit wicket to caught behind. Although he did indeed tread on his stumps, he also edged to Adam Gilchrist, and under Law 32 (2) that takes precedence. Gilchrist's career dismissals thus went to 291.

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