There’s a long view from the top of the Edrich stand, these days. Make the mountainous climb to the new highest point of the Lord’s ground, and you can see out over blocks of flats, past London’s southwestern sprawl, all the way past the river. The green ridge of a wooded hill rises from the horizon like a mirage – that can’t, surely, be Richmond? – and gives you the sense that you’ve discovered your own private periscope above the crowded city.
Kumar Sangakkara, MCC’s current president, officially opened the new Compton and Edrich stands on the first day of the Test here. Just before play, he cut the ceremonial ribbon that the press release insisted was scarlet and gold, even if everyone in the ground knew that was just a fancy way of saying egg and bacon. But the spectators at the Hundred matches have been filling these seats for weeks now. They’ve already learned that you pace yourselves on the stairs if you don’t want to get a headrush.
The upper stands of the Compton and Edrich have always been exposed to the elements – and the new design offers no more shelter from the rain – but those who favour them appreciate them for the angled view over the bowler’s arm, and the backdrop of the world’s most famous cricketing edifice. Now, with a bit of juggling on Google maps and a decent imagination, you can trace a line from Thomas and Frank Verity’s pavilion to the streets of South Kensington, where their rich legacy of Victorian architecture mirrors the ornate detailing of the Lord’s turrets.
Cast your eyes back down to the field, and even the action takes on a different perspective. When you follow the game on the television it can feel like a series of miniature detonations, a tale told in morse code. Rory Burns trapped in front. Haseeb Hameed’s stumps broken first ball. The individual moments and close-up reactions we see repeated on the screen take on a life of their own, like the constructed memories of something you never actually witnessed.
From the eyrie at the top of the Edrich, you see both less and more. Events can be more ambiguous from this distance (was that a dropped catch by Joe Root at slip, or did Rishabh Pant miss the ball entirely?). But they can be more revealing, too. The scrambled running of India’s lower order, for instance, suggests that they’re not in quite the same carefree mood as Trent Bridge, and so does Ravi Jadeja, gesticulating at his batting partners from 20 paces. When Jonny Bairstow misses the stumps, attempting to run out Ishant, only those in the ground see how long he holds his hands to his head. It’s longer than it takes Virat Kohli to call for a DRS review.
From this vantage point, the field expands and contracts with the rhythm of the overs like the pulsing of a living organism. White-clothed players move across the greensward in endlessly shifting patterns, every movement and player invisibly connected. Cricket has always had a close kinship with mathematics but from this high in the stands the urgent power of statistics – the numbers that fill the scorers’ books and the data analysts’ heads – give way to the gentle beauty of geometry.
Sports stadiums are fascinating spaces – both public auditoriums, and the private workplaces of the players who perform there. We’re contained within them together, but separated by the touchline or the boundary rope. A ground like Lord’s comes with an even more complicated set of boundaries. It’s the home of cricket, a place of pilgrimage for all lovers of the sport, but it’s also the home of an exclusive private club rooted in the days of Empire, whose colonial power and privilege have reached across oceans and centuries.
That makes its architecture, and the message it offers, even more important than most. The ground has undergone constant development throughout its history, ever since Thomas Lord – a net bowler himself – first bought this St John’s Wood field to rent to a bunch of enthusiastic aristocrats from Islington – the original metropolitan elite. It may never cease to be an exclusive space, but it can become less exclusionary.
It was, one imagines, a financial inevitability that parts of the Compton and Edrich would end up off limits to all but the wealthy. A middle tier for debenture holders – containing two upmarket restaurants only they have the chance to eat in – merely continues the line of hospitality boxes encircling the ground. But it is something, at least, that the elegant walkway connecting them, which offers views across the Nursery Ground, has been opened to regular ticket holders, too.
And while Lord’s cannot pretend to be a democratic space, it can at least be a collective one. Friday was #RedforRuth day, when all those coming to the ground are encouraged to wear red in support of the Ruth Strauss Foundation. When the England team took to the field, they fanned themselves out into a heart shape, a beautiful gesture and one that you suspect took a little rehearsing beforehand. It looked great from above, but even better when your eye scanned the ground, and saw the stands illuminated by the red outfits of the spectators, who had followed their lead.