Friday 14th - May
England v Sri Lanka
Tail-Ender’s World Cup began with a shock as the authorities threatened to impose a complete pre-tournament shut-out, but eventually after no little wrangling and a stern letter to the powers that be, they relented and access was granted. Tail-Ender was eventually admitted to Lord’s, but his reputation obviously preceded him and he was denied admission to the dazzling new space age media centre which hangs over the nursery end like the mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. As any moment Tail-Ender expected a ramp to descend amidst an eruption of coloured light and sound with strange alien life forms emerging to be greeted by Adam Hollioake making obscene gestures at third man after mistaking their ‘We come in peace’ message for some gentle barracking.
And so we came to the opening ceremony, but unfortunately a family size box of Astro fireworks left over from last Guy Fawke’s Night, an assortment of oversize foam cricket balls and Tony Blair muttering anecdotes obviously manufactured by his very own spin doctors contributed to a sense of occasion which was about as exciting as watching Geoff Boycott make a slow double-century. Even the flypast by three Sea King helicopters was hugely anti-climactic as the unsettled weather meant they couldn’t carry the gaudy assortment of streamers which were planned. So underwhelmed was one of the assembled punters that he was heard to mutter ‘Blimey they could have got the Red Arrows for another fifty quid.”
After Alec Stewart called a matching toss, a couple of the Sri Lankan journos obviously sniffed the rain wind, sensed what was coming and settled in for a lengthy spell of their own propping up the bar and if nothing else it was good to see that they can compete with their English colleagues in this as well as every other department. While England romped to a fairly convincing win on the field, London Transport made their own particular contribution to the spectacle by managing to close down one escalator and indeed the entire St John’s Wood station at various points during the day.
After the post match press conference where Alec Stewart had been taking lessons in the art of post match interview technique from Alan Shearer, Tail-Ender made his weary way up St John’s Wood Road toward home and encountered a jolly Sri Lankan man selling some keyrings with little hand carved bats attached to them. These attractive little fellows had both Sri Lankan and Union Jack flags on their faces but Tail-Ender was disappointed to hear a passing MCC buffer exclaim, “Hmmph, how does the fella expect to sell those? That’s not even the cross of St George.” Tail-Ender stopped and purchased one anyway and will be keeping it as a treasured memento of the tournament.
Yet Tail-Ender’s favourite memory of the opening day was struggling down the steps of the tube to find an England fan half-way down, frozen like a statue in mid-stride. In his role as concerned cricketing citizen Tail-Ender made a polite enquiry after his health to which the inebriated reveller could only mumble “S’alright, we won …we actually won.” and his face lit up by such a beatific smile that Tail-Ender was content to leave him to his blissful oblivion. If it achieves nothing else, this world Cup has already made at least one England supporter, drunkenly and quite deliriously happy.