By Clare Cannon
The Second Ashes Test at Lord’s, London, August 14 – 18, 2019
The Editor of Wisden, Lawrence Booth, has described the Long Room in the Pavilion at Lord’s as “the most evocative four walls in world cricket.”
Designed by theatre architect, Thomas Verity, the Long Room with its sky blue walls, chandeliers and portrait of WG Grace breathes heritage, tradition, stagecraft and masculinity. The men - I don’t believe I saw another woman - wore their bacon and egg ties with verve. There was no place in the world I’d have rather been!
I received the wonderful invitation to the Committee Room on day two of the Test. My guest, Alexandra, had flown from Hamburg for the occasion. This was her first real cricket match apart from watching my daughters play in Dandenong.
After three years of my daughters playing for Dandenong, let me say here that the MCC Lord’s and Dandenong CC could not be further apart in atmosphere with Dandenong CC having all the trappings of the stereotypical suburb.
Cricket is a broad church and this is what makes the game so great.
Alexandra’s messages started early on the day of the match with pictures of potential outfits with and without jacket and stockings. It wasn’t until after breakfast that the third outfit was deemed the final complete with the all the formal trappings.
It was a short walk from our digs to Hyde Park corner and the number 13 “Lord’s Bus.” Downstairs was packed with men in their signature ties. It was not until after Oxford Street that the Australians got in with their green and yellow track suits. These Australians were not, however, the usual Fanatics’ demographic due to ticket prices being around 300 pounds. In fact, we wondered if we should stand as some of the supporters looked a touch infirm.
We arrived in the Committee Room at precisely 10.30am so as not to miss a moment. I was wearing my MCC “uniform” of navy blue with the MCC scarf, which my daughter disparagingly calls my British Airways flight attendant outfit.
We were welcomed at the door by Tim, resplendent in tails, who offered us a cup of tea in a cup and saucer with the MCC Lord’s emblem embossed in gold. Later, Tim’s Pimms appeared: a lethal brew which had gin hidden in the recipe.
There is the wonderful tradition at Lord’s of ringing the bell five minutes before the start of play. On day two we were all wearing a Ruth Strauss Rose in honour of Andrew Strauss’ Australian wife, who died of a rare lung cancer. Shane Warne sported a complete red suit! Andrew Strauss and his sons rang the bell to open play. It was a poignant moment.
Since joining the MCC Committee one of my areas of responsibility and expertise has become best practice women’s loos and change-rooms. To this end, I would like to report on the women’s facilities at Lord’s. With only 500 female members, there are only two ladies’ loos in the Members’ Pavilion.
The first, and very fancy one, is downstairs in the basement on the Warner Stand side. But there is a hidden loo up on the second floor. This is accessed only if you are given “the word.” You enter an unmarked door which leads to a corridor with photos of Ashes teams lining the walls. If you walk along there a little way you will, indeed, find a ladies’ loo. It was exiting this said bathroom that I realised why it was all so `hush hush' as I stepped straight into Chris Woakes heading to the England change-rooms along this corridor!
Other highlights of the five days included being hosted for lunch in the CEO’s House (yes, like a school principal, the CEO gets a house next door with the job). The proviso of this is that they do have cricket dignitaries to stay frequently in the guest cottage in the garden.
I also met Kumar Sangakkara, the incoming President of MCC Lord’s and, yes, he is even more charming and handsome in real life. I also met Eileen Ash, former England Cricketer and who, at aged 107, is the oldest living male or female cricketer in the world. Eileen’s portrait commissioned by MCC Lord’s was unveiled day four with Eileen present in a smart pant suit. She credits her longevity to red wine and yoga.
Did I forget to mention the cricket? Perhaps yes. But I know that will be covered by other Balcony Banterers with a keener cricket eye. Suffice to say it had all the drama and stagecraft fit for a Thomas Verity theatre.
Growing up a nerd, many of Clare Cannon’s childhood friends were shocked by her reinvention in middle age as an avid sports watcher and student of cricket and football.
Childhood memories of the Test cricket on black and white television as a sound of summer was part of this passionate evolution, as well as regular trips to the football at the MCG with a cousin and a Queensland Aunt who always made cheese and jam sandwiches for the occasion.
Later, it was her sister who took Clare to the MCG to attend Melbourne matches and to watch her sister’s boyfriend play seconds before the main game that further kindled the flame.
Now “living the dream,” Clare has taken girls’ cricket tours around the world with Cricket Without Borders and sits on the Committee of the MCC.