Lord's Diary: There's many a slip in the Cowdrey family - thanks to the Long Room test

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The Independent Online

It is safe to assume that the Long Room had never seen its like and that the gin-soaked dodderers who, in the popular imagination and perhaps in reality, used to inhabit the place creaked in their graves. There was Matthew Fleming, formerly of Kent and England and a current MCC committee member, throwing eggs. If anything could be said to represent what MCC have become, rather than what they once were (excepting the admission of women members, of course), this was it. Fleming, in a mini tour de force at the dinner following the Cowdrey Lecture the other night, wished to demonstrate that the Cowdrey genes lived on. By way of doing so he insisted that Lord Cowdrey's grandsons, Julius and Fabian, attempted to catch the eggs thrown some 10 feet across the floor. Cowdrey Snr was one of the finest slip catchers of his generation; Fleming wanted to check progress on the younger generation. The young brothers, sons of Chris Cowdrey, did not let him down. It was neither the distance nor the force with which the eggs were thrown that might have been disconcerting but the occasion. It brought the house down, though it was hard not to think that Gubby Allen, former MCC president and éminence grise at Lord's for decades, was looking down bemusedly. Fleming, one presumes, will one day be MCC president himself.


Among the guests at the Cowdrey dinner was Keith Bradshaw, who will become MCC's chief executive in October. Despite his formidable qualifications as an international accountant he was a surprising choice to succeed Roger Knight in that he is from Tasmania. Bradshaw had come over for the Test match and to case the joint before formally beginning his duties in October. He professed himself in awe of Lord's, and said that when he saw the job advertisement he immediately saw it as a dream position. It is perhaps all part of MCC's brave new look that they could appoint an Australian to the role. In some ways it is difficult to think that they would have done so even 10 years ago - though Gubby Allen was born in Australia.


Nobody could deny that Lord's is well chronicled. Only last year, Stephen Fay, of this parish, produced an exemplary account of a year in the life of the ground, the organisation who run it and the great man who was the first former professional cricketer to be their president, Tom Graveney. If it is not quite that the book, Tom Graveney At Lord's, has sunk without trace, it is certainly the case that positive marketing has been conspicuously absent. Until this week, that is, with the season half over, when Fay and Graveney have been signing copies at Lord's. Robin Marlar, this year's president, agrees on the book's quality. He has stuck his head above the parapet too often before to instigate a public row, but he said: "The publicity area is one that's being looked at, because there is some disquiet over the marketing of this particular volume."


There is, however, a Lord's that is virtually unknown. This is the second plot on which Thomas Lord alighted, between his first ground at Dorset Square and the present one where he moved in 1814. Between 1811 and 1813, however, Lord based himself on a site a few hundred yards to the east of the present ground. The prolific (and painstaking) cricket author and historian David Rayvern Allen has produced a fascinating booklet about the field known as Middle Ground and the quest to find an appropriate place for a plaque marking the spot. As a result of Rayvern Allen's searches, helped by Mured Qureshi, a cricket-loving member of London Assembly, whose idea it was, there will be three plaques. The first is on Chapel Bridge. Rayvern Allen will probably not be signing copies of the brochure, but it is a welcome addition to the canon.


Determined to be in the vanguard, MCC are planning a project researching cricket balls. They intend to examine why balls of different colours behave in different ways under different conditions, and why some balls go soft. "We are in talks with London University scientists and hope to start work shortly," said the chief executive, Roger Knight. The project stems from the rumpus over graphite cricket bats earlier this year.