Volunteer Blog: The Party's Over
Featured News | 23rd June 2009
In many ways, Finals Day at Lords was indeed a ‘walk in the park’. Both winning sides bowled and fielded with such skill and determination that each had a fairly unchallenging run chase; but for we volunteers it was the walk round between matches that took pride of place in our memories.
Volunteers from the Oval, Taunton and Trent Bridge joined forces to take a ‘lap of honour’ on the hallowed turf, making a rather more sedate trip than England’s victorious women had done just moments earlier. As we gathered in the lee of the media centre ‘pod’, a few us felt that we might be something of an anti-climax for the spectators that had remained in their seats. After all, they’d come to see four teams battle for honours, not a bunch of blue-togged worthies have their day in the sun.
But to our delight, we got a really good reception, with the odd cheer, plenty of waves and claps and even a ripple or two for the bacon-and-egg-tie brigade among the debenture holders in the Pavilion. To top it all, one of the Nottingham cadre – Sanjay – was asked to do a pitch-side interview for the host TV and he was questioned on our role in the competition by Radio One presenter Mark Chapman who had been hosting the on-the-ground broadcasts throughout the tournament. Never one to be shy, Sanjay was delighted to be asked on and gave a very good account of himself, bodes well for one who now has a media career in his sights after these couple of weeks!
I have had the pleasure of visiting Lords on several occasions – even once organising an event in their banqueting suite – so the experience meant more to some others. Indeed, several fellow volunteers had come more for the thrill of being out on what is still cricket’s most famous playing arena than to see the games themselves. One guy in particular, a Dubai-based cricket lover, was quite emotional about the whole thing.
Nottingham’s coachload had set from Trent Bridge (where else?) early-ish on Sunday morning – though I imagine our compadres from Somerset must have been even earlier – and we arrived in NW8 for a quick brief on the day and one final check of some by now dog-eared accreditation and then off to the Mound Stand to watch the first match.
Such was England’s dominance that by the time we were all settled in our seats, the match was pretty much settled too, with New Zealand 18-2! England’s women are a class apart at the moment and the same Kiwi side that had looked so dominant at Trent Bridge when they disposed of India in the semi were pretty much swept aside by good, tight bowling and a batting blend of aggression and technique.
I reckon the men could learn a few lessons on bowling to your field and pacing a 20/20 game from Charlotte Edwards’s crew and in Claire Taylor they have probably England’s most in-form cricketer of either sex.
Whilst waiting for our parade to set off we had a close-up view of the Sri Lankans warming up for the men’s final and they looked fit, fast and focused. This parade was one last outing for the blue uniforms (unless I run out clean T-shirts later in the summer) and I have to say that the phalanx of volunteers did look smart – even impressive – as they took their collective bow from the crowd.
Then it was time for a swift bite to eat and, for most anyway, a chance to change into ‘civvies’ before settling down to a quiet, restrained and somnolent afternoon of patient, measured cricket …….yeah, right.
Pakistan’s bowlers started even more explosively than did England’s women and the much-fancied Sri Lankans were 2-2 at the end of the second over with the inventive ‘man-of-the-series’ Dilshan back in the dug out without scoring.
The early part of the match continued to go the way of Younus and his men as successive batsmen found themselves (in the main) playing shots just a fraction early and either chipping up catches or playing on. Sangkakarra – for my money technically the best batsman of the tournament – was the exception and, eventually, he found a sound partner in the fast-improving Angelo Mathews. Together they amassed a 60+ partnership that put some impetus into the end of the innings and they finished just short of 140 that most observers (at least among the volunteers in the free seats) was ‘par’ for that pitch.
Given their team’s success in defending small totals, the Sri Lankans around us were still pretty confident but they needed a good start. In fact it was Pakistan that got the start and they were never behind the run rate. Inevitably, it was Shahid Afridi – as one sign near us put it, ‘Be Afridi .. Be Very Afridi’ – who produced the coup de gras and completed 50 and then knocked off the winning runs.
Throughout the crowds had been fantastically enthusiastic, fantastically noisy and fantastically friendly. What a contrast, we observed, to football matches where rivals have to be carefully segregated for fear of clashes and trouble. Even given the tensions at home in both countries, there was always a carnival atmosphere and a warmth and love for the game and the key players.
All summed up by one home-made sign just a few rows in front of us. Some Indian fans – who must have expected to see their side at Lords that day – had a sign that read: “…we are happy to hand over the title to our brothers. Sport is sport and nothing more”, signed ‘The Friends of Chennai’. A magnificent sentiment that does them real credit.
After the traffic jams and full-bore celebrations at Trent Bridge when Pakistan won the semi-final, we knew what to expect so were not too astonished that our return coach was some 40 minutes late arriving to pick us up and then had to negotiate a very unconventional route back through North London to the M1 to get us home.
Sated on sunshine and sensation (and for some a few pints), many slept on the journey home, occasionally surfacing to add to the (usually cricket-based) conversations before dozing off again. We were back at Trent Bridge by 10.30 and hugs and handshakes all round we wended the final few miles home.
I am sure that many of the volunteer team will keep in touch (indeed, I have already had one batch of potentially embarrassing photographs e-mailed and a Facebook album has been created) and I look forward to catching up with them and the Trent Bridge media team at regular intervals throughout the summer – and beyond.
Such was the commitment to ‘getting it right’ on match days that one or two of us felt slightly guilty that we had sat through two matches without getting up to do a shift on the gates or sorting out photographer’s passes. A day of uninterrupted cricket watching felt just a tad self-indulgent.
When I booked tickets for the tournament back in September last year I could not have imagined that I would, in the end, by a tiny tooth on one of the cogs that kept the tournament wheel turning.
By common consent this has been one of the most successful cricket events of recent years and if we volunteers have played a part in that success then I think we can be pleased and proud. I shall look back on the early summer of 2009 as a highlight of more than 50 years of watching, umpiring and (now) helping at cricket at every level.
Thanks to the ICC, ECB and, especially, the teams at Trent Bridge for the opportunity – let’s do it again soon!
A lap of honour at Lord's