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Marylebone Cricket Club, 33 years and 50 tests through the lens of Patrick Eagar

Feature: Oli Burley

AS A boy I used to save up my pocket-money to buy Patrick Eagar’s latest book at the end of each summer, so inevitably the cricket photographer is intrinsically linked to my childhood memories of the game.

When I mention this to him, surrounded by a new exhibition of his career’s work in the Lord’s museum, the celebrated snapper looks almost mortified, as if I’ve just spilt scalding coffee on his trigger finger.

Thankfully, my cup is still full and it dawns on me that inadvertently I have stumbled upon the very essence of ‘Marylebone Cricket Club, 33 years and 50 tests through the lens of Patrick Eagar’.

This microcosmic collection – the product of a career spanning at least ½ million negatives – is much more a tribute to one self-effacing man than a celebration of a ground rich in heroes and tradition.

"I felt it was important to give a sense of the past but also look to the future," says Eagar, as he scans the exhibition, erasing years of work in one breath. "I couldn’t tell you which decade is best represented."

Equally, I am none the wiser as the prints are hung non-chronologically in half-a-dozen sections, ranging from the ‘Gallery of Greats’ to ‘An Eye on Lord’s’, that invite cricketing and photographic comparisons.

Inevitably, in an Ashes summer, I am drawn instinctively to the pictures – arranged around the urn itself – that capture some of the great moments of Anglo-Australian clashes.

Two envelop me in particular; the Australian colossus, Steve Waugh, commanding in defence in 1989, his perfect poise a complete contrast to the umpire, Dickie Bird, typically nervous and angular.


For sheer dignity, though, Kim Hughes captivates; with complete control he square-drives during the 1980 Centenary Test, the blurred tip of his blade too slick for the transparency speed.

The image proves the importance of timing, on and off the pitch; anyone can take a picture, but few can truly capture the moment.

As if to underline this, each image in the collection is accompanied by a simple, informative caption. The Lord’s pavilion is at its best, we are told, before 11am when morning sunlight shines on its terracotta face.

Meanwhile, we learn that the image of Michael Atherton, run out for 99 in 1993, was taken by a remote control camera as Eagar could not capture the stranded player and the stumps in the same side-on shot.

These insights help to garnish Eagar’s own keen sense of history.

The names of Warwick Armstrong and Victor Trumper, scratched into the players’ balcony at Lord’s in 1899 and 1902 respectively, are given a mischievous context by a deep, respectful backdrop of the ground.

Similarly, the iconic Father Time weather vane hanging helpless and inverted as it is moved to a new position in 1996 acts as a vivid reminder that for all of cricket’s history, it remains just a game.

For some, the skills of that sport – as the pictures of the Bedsers, Chappells and Hollioakes prove in the ‘Cricketing Genes’ section – come all too naturally.

Meanwhile, the rest of us with cricket in our blood are indebted to Eagar – whether he likes it or not – for his dedication and ability to capture it so masterfully.

The Exhibition, at Lord’s Cricket Ground, officially opens on June 7 and is expected to run until the end of 2005. Visitors will be able to purchase tickets throughout the year, on match and non-match days.

See for more details about the museum.

A book, entitled Marylebone Cricket Club, 33 years and 50 tests through the lens of Patrick Eagar, will accompany the exhibition.

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