LONDON – Because of its cavernous size, the facilities at Lord’s tend to be generously spread out. So, for a batsman to get to the nets, it is not a case of walking down the stairs and round the back from the pavilion.
At Lord’s, the nets are right across the field, beyond the space-age media centre, in amongst the champagne-filled umbrellas that hundreds of patrons plonk themselves under in the searing sun.
On day two, just before play started, England’s Jonny Bairstow was emerging from a quick net and going through the crowd to get back to the relative serenity of the field, and then the dressing-room.
Bairstow, cheerful by nature, was polite to all those who greeted him, and signed a few autographs for the youngsters who asked.
Before he was quite done, an English lady came hither, and politely asked: “So, when are you coming in to have a bat then?” she fluttered.
“Oh, sorry love! You’ve missed me. I batted yesterday, and I was s**t!
“That’s why I was in the nets,” Bairstow said matter-of-factly.
The young lady headed off to the champagne brollies, and Bairstow nipped back to the home dressing-room. As they say, there is nothing quite like a bit of Northern honesty to break the ice.
Lord’s has it all, and then some. As South Africa were dealing with a very stubborn English tail, the patrons had already decided to have an early lunch, safe in the knowledge that there are TV screens absolutely everywhere.
At the bar, behind the main pavilion, the big screen on the lawn of the Nursery ground, in perfect view to those quaffing bubbles, it truly seems like time stops at Lord’s, and the 30 000 paying customers are taken back to a simpler time.
A time where there are no actual hours, but rather passages of play or pleasure.
When Temba Bavuma and Theunis de Bruyn dug in their heels and stopped England running amok, the members were riveted.
“Proper Test cricket, this is,” the bacon-and-egg boys murmured.
They live for quality cricket, and the scurrying Bavuma got cheers throughout the day.
Twice he stopped would-be boundaries at cover, the first interception so potent that bowler Morné Morkel bolted over to offer his hearty thanks.
The crowd bellowed in unison. He repeated the trick a ball later, and the claps went up a decibel.
However, the impish Mr Bavuma saved his real party trick for the afternoon, as he closed in on a tenacious half-century.
Every single one of his boundaries was meant, the ball met with all the sincerity of a man living out a dream.
The English lads know better than to abuse Bavuma now, and even the Barmy Army’s tune of ‘Baa Baa Vooma, you’re not very tall!’ (to the tune of Baa Baa Black Sheep) was missing in action.
Bavuma stood tall on day two, and those who like their cricketers compact and classy loved him for it.
As the small man did big things out in the middle, another South African legend surveyed the scene.
The Big Easy, Ernie Els, was at HQ, and he sauntered around as if he was on the back nine.
He popped into the Sky studio, said hi to the press, then strolled back to the hospitality box to take in the cricket.
Ready for The Open, Ernie? “One more would be nice, eh,” he chirped, flashing a big cheesy.
Lord’s, this magical place has space for sporting legends big and small.
The grandiosity of it seduces them all.
Independent on Saturday