Paying homage to the Urn

Lord's, viewed from the Media Centre
This writer has been fortunate enough to visit some wonderful sporting venues, some of them not in West Bromwich. For atmosphere, the old Wembley and Croke Park are hard to beat; for setting, Bridgetown’s Kensington Oval and the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town are both unforgettable locations; and Lisbon’s Stadium of Light, the Stade de France, the Bernabeu, Yokohama, Philips Stadium Eindhoven and any number of others are great, modern stadia that offer comfort without compromising on atmosphere.

But for my money, the greatest place on earth to watch sport – sunhat on head, glass of wine in hand and pork pie within reach – is the home of cricket: Lord’s. For the uninitiated, Lord’s, in north London, is the world HQ of the greatest game ever conceived, and has borne witness down the years not just to sporting heroics but to genuine history-changing moments. Last week’s death of Basil D’Oliveira, who in his playing days became a symbol of the injustice of apartheid, gave a further reminder of cricket’s turbulent history, of which Lord’s has been the centre for nearly 200 years.

I was at Lord’s for the Club Cricket Conference annual lunch this week as a guest of John Sankey and Steve Wescott of Cecil Macdonald, one of the longest established suppliers to the UK travel retail market. John and Steve were both good cricketers in their time and were, as always, genial and knowledgeable company as we enjoyed some fine fare among the great and good of English club cricket, along with some esteemed industry friends of Cecil Macdonald – among them Jo Hickey, inflight legend and great to see on fine form.

John and Steve’s kind invitation allowed me to get close, at last, to the most beautiful little trophy in sport. It’s scarcely any taller than your index finger and would probably fall apart if held aloft in the traditional way, but for Englishmen and Australians there is nothing bigger. It is, of course, the original Ashes urn, competed for by the English and Australian cricket teams every two years or so and jealously guarded deep within the Lord’s museum.

The Ashes, at home in England
I won’t bore non-cricket fans with the history here; that’s what Wikipedia is for. But I’m reproducing my photo of the Little Urn for the benefit of our many readers in Australia. Take a good look at it, possums, as it will be a long time before you see it again.

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  • Hi Ivo: you are right, your distant cousin Mr Bligh brought it home for us…

    However I must counter your other points. Now that we have the best opening bat, the best off spinner and the best pace attack in the world, and the Australians are turning in desperation to a South African coach, I can’t see your boys making any advance from 123 in the next couple of decades. At least it’s an easy number to remember in pub quizzes.

    Yours in cricket!

  • Hi John, glad you were impressed by “my” trophy (read the inscription) – it’s a wonderful legend and I just love watching Ashes test matches.

    But for the record, the record stands (since 1877) at 123 wins for Australia, 100 for England and 87 draws.

    So although England are playiing well right now, and the Aussies not so well, us Aussies know – and history shows – that we will regain the asendancy before too long, notwithstanding the fact that we have only one-third the population!!

    Such banter is one of the best parts of Ashes cricket. And long may it be so.