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The biggest putting green in the world

Oliver Brett | 15:43 UK time, Friday, 20 July 2007

ob66.jpgIn September 2002, the MCC spent £1.2m laying a new outfield at Lord’s with a drainage system of scientific precision.

Afterwards, they were assured they had a surface that could drain two inches of water in an hour.

Up until the second day of the first Test against India on Friday, that guarantee had not been put to the test.

And when three hours of drizzle climaxed in a biblical deluge at 1230 BST – and the standing water crept like some mythical sea creature to almost every corner of the outfield – most thought that was the end of any lingering hope of play.

The drainage outside the ground is not so good

How wrong they were. The sun came out, and the water disappeared through the surface as though obeying some command from above.

Unbelievably, at 1350, play got under way – and as news got round ticket-holders scurried back from various local hostelries.

In case you win the lottery and are thinking of laying a new outfield at your local cricket club – this is how you copy the Lord’s system:

Dig to 20 inches deep, and place a layer of stone and then a layer of gravel. Then add lots of sand - 18 inches of it – and finally your grass goes on top of that.

“It’s basically the biggest putting green in the world,” MCC director of cricket John Stephenson told me.

“It was just incredible what happened today. Not even I thought it was going to happen.”

Against all expectation, the magic number of 25 overs would be played in the day – meaning no refunds for ticket-holders.

Lord’s also managed to stage a full match in the first one-day international against West Indies earlier this season when other grounds may have struggled to do so.

“The outfield’s saved our bacon,” said Stephenson. “Over those two days it’s probably paid itself back.”

Inevitably, Stephenson is proud of head groundsman Mick Hunt and his willing cohorts.

Early in the day, Hunt had been seen wearing wellington boots for the first time in his 14 years in the job. He religiously wears shorts in July as well whatever the weather - that is until Friday dawned in all its bleak misery.

“They have they done a massive amount of overtime,” Stephenson said of Hunt and co.

“They get rewarded but they would argue they should be better rewarded and I wouldn’t argue with that.

“But they do a great job and deserve all the credit they get.”

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 05:01 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Claire wrote:

Call me a pedant... but Saturday hasn't happened yet.

I'm all for predictions into the future - as long as there's a fresh from Hogwarts guarantee attached.

There are those who would see this as another attempt at BBC dishonesty... or you could just put it right to avoid the confusion.

Totally agree with the point though - awesome work by the groundstaff. Have they ever considered transferring to New Road? Or perhaps Worcestershire should transfer their ground to Lord's.

  • 2.
  • At 05:22 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Paul Phillips wrote:

Fantastic Work by all the Groundstaff at Lord's. When I saw the pictures at 12:30 I thoung there was no chance of any play today, but thanks th the work of the staff and the drainage system the teams were out less then 80 minutes after the deluge.

  • 3.
  • At 05:29 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Andy wrote:

magnificent achievement though it is - should we have expected anything less from the home of cricket?

  • 4.
  • At 05:33 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Richard wrote:

We could do with this system at Stradbroke Cricket Club where we use the Parish Council's playing fields, but I fear we can't afford it ! Any donors, get in touch ! Richard

  • 5.
  • At 05:40 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Oliver Brett wrote:


The mistake has been corrected - sorry. I guess it seemed like a new day when the sun came out!

  • 6.
  • At 07:49 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Great work on the part of the groundstaff and Lord's that their work and investment got play going so early, but the talk of the 'magic number of 25 overs' (which I also heard the MCC quoting on the TV) is pretty distasteful. If you've paid £50 minimum for a ticket and see less than a third of a day's play, it's a complete rip off, as those of us at Edgbaston for the Sri Lanka test last year will testify. The refund threshold should be at least 40 overs, preferably more.

It's time to remember that cricket is for the fans, and that they're the ones ultimately paying for all this.

  • 7.
  • At 09:01 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • No, please, take all my money wrote:

Mark (6), good point, and if, like me, you want to see a decent amount of cricket for your money, I recommend that you avoid 20/20 at headingley like the plague.

The other night, having parted with £30 for two tickets, we sat in the rain for two hours watching the groundstaff move the covers about.

Occasionally the PA made unintelligible grunting noises. It rained for a bit. It stopped for a bit. It rained some more.

At 7.45, we gave up to seek shelter and solace in the nearest bar. We consoled ourselves with the thought that our £30 would be returned upon the inevitable abandonment, hence to be used to fund a day at the seaside (should the rain ever stop)

But no, never underestimate the ruthless capitalists at YCCC. Notts and Yorks squeezed in a 30 - minute 5 over thrash in the gloom.

Pointless, meaningless, hopeless excuse for competitive cricket but "You've seen a ball bowled so we're keeping your money now, you mugs!"

(Just to put this in context, it was NZ$10 (£3.50) to get in to see test cricket at the Basin Reserve in Wellington in March 2005).

  • 8.
  • At 10:21 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Simon Corcoran wrote:

Well done to the guys, hopped in to town at about half 12 with the outfield looking like the river thames! was shocked to return two hours later to find that not only had play commenced, but india were 4-0 with england all out! thought i was watching a rerun!

They groundsmen should be earning more than Mr.Stephenson does!

  • 9.
  • At 11:05 PM on 20 Jul 2007,
  • Martin Rowe wrote:

I was at Lord's today, and I can verify that the deluge was Biblical. But I watched in amazement as the water just drained away, and the incredibly hard-working groundstaff made sure that play began as soon as possible. All credit to them for making it happen. I remember Lord's Fridays past where people were jumping from the Tavern bar into the waist-high water, so poor was the drainage. I can only say, the investment was well worth it.

Full credit goes to Stephenson and his colleagues for excellent play of cricket on day two. Who would have thought a game of play at lords. Well done Stephenson.

  • 11.
  • At 09:47 AM on 21 Jul 2007,
  • Salim wrote:

I do not have a comment but have a question.
What difference has the new drainage system made to the bowling - does the ball bounce more? Less? Does is it swing off the wicket as much or less than before the new drainage system was installed?

  • 12.
  • At 10:14 AM on 21 Jul 2007,
  • Oliver Brett wrote:

Hi Salim

The wickets themselves get replaced on a gradual basis, the outfield replacement was a separate job carried out in 2002. The answer is that the outfiels itself should not affect playing conditions for batsmen and bowlers. Recent evidence suggests the Lord's wicket gets flatter as the match wears on, and spinners rarely win matches here.

  • 13.
  • At 10:27 AM on 21 Jul 2007,
  • Salim wrote:

Many thanks to Oliver Brett for answering my question.

  • 14.
  • At 03:01 PM on 21 Jul 2007,
  • Nick wrote:

"Recent evidence suggests the Lord's wicket gets flatter as the match wears on, and spinners rarely win matches here."

Tell me why does any wicket "get flatter" I've played cricket most of my life and still don't really understand this. I captain my local village side and I understand (Relatively being I'm an opening bat not a bowler) about how/why the ball swings and seams. But I don't see how if you have 5 days of test cricket a wicket can "get flatter". Does it actually get flatter? or is this just a saying? Logic is surely that all things being equal as a wicket gets older it gets harder to bat on. Can someone explain to me why this is not always the case?

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