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Saturday July 22 2006

Okay I’ll try again.

I arrived at Lords just before the tea interval.  Had I waited a further half hour I would have had to pay only £10 instead of the all day price of £20, but I wanted to press on with my day, and was immediately rewarded with a siting of my first of several celebs.

Yes, Boris, braying in his Boris voice that “It’s a draw”.  Behind Boris, that Space Pod is actually the new (by Lords standards) Media Centre, which is one of my favourite new buildings in the whole world.

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As he walked past me, I grinned at him and said “Celeb”, and he grinned dutifully back.  Celebs are fair photographic game, is the agreed point.  Not that the distinction between celebs and civilians bothers me much.

Boris was eventually proved quite right about the result, but almost the first bit of action I personally set eyes on was the fall of the fourth Pakistani wicket.  Faizal Iqbal, our second ball in the first innings, was finally out in the second, caught Cook bowled Panasar.

This picture only shows the general view that I first saw, from the back of the stand to the immediate left of the Space Pod.

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But zoom in a bit and you can see the England side in a huddle on the left, celebrating, and Faizal, with his back to us, trudging back to the pavilion.

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A couple more wickets soon after tea and it would have been game on.  I wrote last Monday about how Pakistani batsmen like to play shots and might be unsettled by having to grind out a draw, and England captain Strauss in his after-match interviews said the same thing.  His plan was that England didn’t have to worry about runs and could pile on the pressure.  But as he also acknowledged, Pakistan batted well under said pressure.  Abdul Razzaq, who was exactly the kind of dashing stroke player that I and Strauss thought might lose patience, and Pakistan captain Inzaman-ul-Haq calmly batted out the final session, and I contented myself with taking snaps of what action there was.  These few are the best.

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My favourite is the second one.  That must be a Pakistani physio sitting on top of Razzaq, but what on earth are they doing?  And a couple of the England guys appear to be drinking Toilet Duck.

But one moment Inzy was stroking it around for ones, twos and fours, and the next moment they were all shaking hands and it was finished, England being accompanied back to the pavilion by a man with one of the very latest hand-held miniature TV cameras.

I also photoed the ground as a whole, of course.  Cricket grounds are special, because, being so big, they are not all one big lump of unified stuff, however stylish.  The best ones, Lords definitely being a great example, are stylish in a quite different way, having several stylish buildings all jumbled together.  The first of these shots is cute and arty, but the best architectural snaps turned out to be panoramic, in a way that gives you a feeling of what it’s like to be there.

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And, of course, I kept my eyes and lens open for Billion Monkeys.  But at first I saw hardly any.  Maybe they felt intimidated and even superfluous.  Great sports, such as cricket, have always been very, very happy hunting grounds for Real Photographers, and the ground was also dotted with film crews.

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So instead of snapping spectators with cameras, I began by merely snapping the most interesting looking spectators, with my camera:

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If those last two, Flintoff (the news on that front has suddenly turned bad again) and the Pindi Express, had been playing, it would have made a better game of it, and there would almost certainly have been a result.

At first, as I say, few Billion Monkeys, but then, as I moved ground the ground towards the pavilion, from stand to stand, especially after the game was over and they were setting up the little end-of-match presentation ceremony on the far left as I first saw the ground, I started to notice Billion Monkeys, and by the end of my day I had quite a decent collection:

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Another classic water bottle snap there (number 3) and an excellent Monkey self portrait shot (number 6) to add to the collection.

Next, a couple of snaps of Channel 5 TV commentator Mark Nicholas and his gang, first waiting to do, and then doing, their thing, interviewing players etc.  Nicholas is in the dark suit, with the mike.  And unless I am grievously mistaken, that’s Boycott in the hat.  The celeb count was starting to rise!

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Going back to that last of the Billion Monkey shots above, that hubbub, which happened outside the pavilion after the game was over, was, when I photoed it, just a hubbub.  I just stuck my camera in the air and tried to get all the other Billion Monkeys in action.  Snap snap snap snap.  (The marginal cost of digital photography is zero.  Underspend on cameras and overspend on storage media.  Blah blah.) But who or what was being hubbubbed?

It was only when I got home and took a more careful look at my snaps, on my computer screen instead of on the silly little screen on my camera, that I found out who the fuss was about.  Yes, Ian Botham!  I had been within about twelve feet of God, and I hadn’t even known it.

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And then there were these guys.  They weren’t being mobbed madly, but they were being treated with way above average respect.  Signatures were being solicited.  Billion Monkeys were snapping.

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Again, I only worked them out when I got home.  These guys were the umpires, Simon Taufel and Steve Bucknor.

The most pleasing snap of my entire day in the “what have we hear?” category was one of the Media Centre.

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Yes, that media centre.

But now look at this snap:

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In the 500 pixels wide version that you see without clicking on that, you just get a jumble, but when you click, you start to see that there are people there.  So let’s crop out these guys . . .

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. . . and click on them.

That’s right.  Those are Test Match Special radio commentators.  It says so, on the sign.

Jonathan Agnew is clearly visible through the open window (which I seem to recall TMS demanded as a condition of operating in the Media Centre), and on his left and our right is Mike Gatting.  More dimly visible, but still definitely visible, to Gatting’s left, is Christopher Martin-Jenkins.  Did I ever tell you people that I was at school with CM-J.  Probably I did.  Well, anyway.  I was.  He was the captain of cricket in his last year, being an okay batter and an okay medium pace bowler.  But he also excelled in the end of term Footlights type review and was also very brainy, and I have not been at all surprised by his subsequent career path.

My camera has far better eyesight than I have.  It has a x12 zoom.  Bringing a camera to an event about quadruples the total pleasure I get from the event, because when I get home, I don’t just remember what I already saw; I get to see things which I did not see at all the first time around.  Without the camera, £10 would have been a bit steep for this Lords visit, given how flat the cricket turned out to be.  With the camera, £20 was a stunning bargain.  Best value entertainment I’ve had in a very long time.

Final shots:

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On the left, W. G. Grace and an appropriately named roller.  On the right, two towers, glimpsed through a gap, on the way out.  Yes two towers.  Mostly that’s the tower of the Regents Park Mosque, but directly behind it is the BT Tower.

Because, when you think about it, this England v. Pakistan cricket match was, in its polite and good-humoured way, a clash of civlisations.  There’s a whole Samizdata posting to be done in connection with these snaps, in which the fact that the Pakistan cricket team has recently got more Muslim.  See in particular Mohammed Yousuf.

One of the reasons Strauss and I were disappointed at how patiently the Pakistanis batted in this game was that these Pakistani players have become more disciplined in their religious observances, as a team, encouraged by captain Inzamam, and as a result more disciplined as cricketers.

But I don’t want to suggest that this was a clash of civilisations in a bad way.  As I hope you can see from my pictures, Asian-descended and white Brits, and all shades and ethnicities and nationalities in between and all around, all mingled contentedly.  There was no “news”, i.e. unpleasantness, whatsoever.  (One of the things I like about the Internet is that it enables you to learn about non-news, satisfactory, nice-to-be-there events such as this one, in far away countries such as mine may be for you, instead of just about wars and famines and catastrophes.  The news at Lords last Monday was that it was a draw.  Yawn.  And the sun shone.  Nil all with three to play.  Nothing happened.

And all this at a time when the news type news in other parts of the Islam versus the Rest part of the world could hardly be worse.