Three young Aussies 'play' at Lord's

The four lads at the Grace Gates at Lord's - from left, Neil, Craig, Adam and Michael

The four lads at the Grace Gates at Lord's - from left, Neil, Craig, Adam and Michael - Credit: Roger Mann

It was April 1997, and three Australian teenagers had recently arrived to spend the summer with us, to improve their cricket, and to enjoy a first look at England.

After cricket, on a Saturday, we insisted that they came home, chatted about the match, and had a meal on our balcony, rather than get exposed to the temptations of Saturday nights in the clubs of Torbay!

On their first balcony night, I had asked them to set themselves an ambition to achieve during their stay.

Adam opted for scoring a century in England, Craig wanted to see the visiting Australian touring team play, and Michael wanted to 'play cricket at Lord’s'.

It wasn’t long before the season started, and the lads slotted into a routine of working for me in the mornings, and practising most afternoons.

They were all very promising cricketers, and each enjoyed playing league cricket, for a local club, at the weekend.

Every Saturday, they reminded me that none had yet realised their ambition, until one day, Adam hit a spectacular century at Sandford! 

Adam on his way to a memorable century at Sandford

Adam on his way to a memorable century at Sandford - Credit: Roger Mann

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That night we raised a glass together... one ambition down and two to go!

We had planned to go to Taunton to watch the Australians play in early August, so Craig was likely to achieve his wish, but Michael’s was still looking very remote.

How could I arrange for him 'to play cricket at Lord’s'?

By the time July came, I realised that I must, at least, try for Michael.

I rang the secretary of Cross Arrows Cricket Club, who play some games on the Nursery Ground at Lord’s.   

Could they help a young Australian to realise an unusual ambition?  

He laughed, and said that he would try to arrange it, but Michael would have to pay a full annual membership fee first. So, it was back to the drawing board!

Then, a few days later, an amazing coincidence occurred.

I got a call from John Woodcock, the former Times cricket correspondent, who was serving on one of the Lord’s committees.

He asked me if I could provide about 50 photographs to decorate the Indoor Cricket Centre at Lord’s.

He explained which photos he wanted, and, by chance, I was able to provide them!

He was delighted, and asked how much I would charge.

In the past, I had never charged Lord’s for any help I had given, and asked him: “How much would you charge the Almighty for decorating heaven?”

We laughed, but, suddenly, I had an idea, and surprised him by saying: “But this time, there will be a cost!”

I told him that I wanted tickets for the Middlesex v Australians match on Sunday week, and a private coaching session in the Indoor Centre, for two hours, for my Australian lads.

He agreed immediately, and the two ambitions might now be achieved!

A few phone calls followed and we were told that, ideally, a coaching session should feature four lads, not three, so we invited Neil to join us.

Watching the Australian touring team playing v Middlesex at Lord's

Watching the Australian touring team playing v Middlesex at Lord's - Credit: Roger Mann

Neil had stayed with us throughout the previous summer, and had returned, this year, to act as the professional for Buckfastleigh Cricket Club. He jumped at the chance to join us.

Knowing that we all had to go to work on the following day, Sunday, July 20 1997, was going to prove a long day!

We left at 3am and got to Lord’s as the gates opened.

We had a memorable coaching session, a tour of the ground, and an afternoon watching the Australians playing.

You guessed it - Middlesex didn’t have much support from our group that day!

The four Australians 'play' at Lord's at last... in the nets!

The four Australians 'play' at Lord's at last... in the nets! - Credit: Roger Mann

We had so much to talk about that the long drive home passed quickly, and we had the satisfaction of knowing that the last two ambitions had been fulfilled!

We have all kept in touch since those days.

Adam brought his wife and children to Torquay to see us in 2019, and I got a letter from Craig last week.

Neil settled in England, married Claire, and went on to captain Devon. He, and all his family, now play cricket at Ipplepen.