Going back to Lord’s for the second jab brought back memories.
It’s almost 20 years since I joined the committee of the Cambridge Society of London, which organises social events in the capital. A favourite was and still is the annual 50-over Oxford v Cambridge ‘Varsity’ matches: teams of students, the men playing on the main ground and the women on the nursery ground. We would hire our own double suite in the Tavern Stand, arrange drinks and staff, and encourage friends to bring their own lunches so that we could picnic under the trees in Coronation Garden there. The matches are open to the public of course but they aren’t hyped or broadcast like the Boat Race, so there are relatively few attendees. You can stroll around, enjoy the facilities and treat it like village cricket. Very civilised.
Here’s a picture of a cricket ball. You will notice that it’s suffered quite badly. That mark is actually a cut. The leather is torn.
It’s the summer of 2014. I’m Chairman of the Society and am hosting three dozen guests in the double suite up in the Tavern Stand overlooking the main ground. The sliding glass doors are wide open. Inside there are chairs and space for us to stand and watch the match and chat (and drink). Outside are tiers of seats for us to sit and watch the match and chat (and drink). Throughout the day the staff refill our glasses and, I stress, our teacups and coffee cups. That’s our suite. Further below us, beyond the parapet, are more tiers going down to grass level, the open public seats.
Now, to those who don’t understand cricket – I’m thinking of our continental and US friends here, but of Brits there are plenty also – this is no place to explain it. The Laws challenge the best of us.
That beautiful summer’s afternoon we witnessed one of the rarest events. The match was near its end. One over left. The score very close: Oxford batting and needing four to win. Our Cambridge team of eleven men, out there in the centre of the ground, bracing themselves and determined to save the day. Well, this is what happened.
Our bowler delivered his best, a real belter. The Oxford batsman opened his shoulders, struck the ball, and we watched. It sailed high up in our direction, over the boundary, over the tiers of open public seats, up and over the heads of our guests sitting (now crouching) in our outside tiers. It flew on and up and into our suite, finally bouncing on the floor between us and then rose up and crashed through the glass panel above the door at the back. That was six runs. We had lost. Fortunately no injuries.
Now I pride myself on my presence of mind. Less so perhaps on my honesty. The opposition had won. We’d been attacked by a hostile ball and had survived. They could celebrate but should not have the spoils. We deserved a memento. That’s it, above. The cut in the leather shows where it had crashed through the glass above our rear door. Quite a feat.
But we’d had a super day. Everyone enjoyed it. Here’s yours truly with the ball, and not noticeably miserable, below the broken glass.
Somehow it then found its way into my old college office for a while, and now it has a happy home in my living room. Strange how that happened.