What is the Lord's slope? Tim Murtagh explains

Whenever matches are played at Lord's, pundits reference the ground's slope. But what is it and how does it affect the match? We asked former Ireland and Middlesex bowler Tim Murtagh to explain

Q: What is the Lord’s slope?

Plain and simple, it’s a slope that runs from the Grandstand down to the Tavern side. It's about eight foot in the difference. You can see it when you look front-ways onto the pitch, but not necessarily from side-on. But it is quite pronounced and it’s obviously very unusual for a cricket ground to have such a slope. They’re normally flat. Lord’s has its own little idiosyncrasy in that there is a slope and it can be quite tricky when you’re playing on it.

Q: What is the main difference between playing on it and playing anywhere else in the world?

As a bowler, you’ve always got something to play with if you’re bowling at the Nursery End, which I mainly do. You have the slope that takes the ball away from the right-hander. So, even when the wicket’s flat and good, there’s always something to play with from a bowler’s point of view.

Bowling at the Pavilion End, someone like Glenn McGrath had a great amount of success there, targeting the stumps with the ball running back down the hill into the right-handers and away from the left-handers. So, depending on which end you bowl from, there’s always something you can utilise throughout the day.

Q: You prefer bowling from the Nursery End with the away-swingers. If you bowl from the Pavilion End, how difficult is that for you?

Not too difficult now because I’ve had a lot of experience playing there and bowling both ends. I think if you’re a new bowler playing at the ground for the first time, there’s certainly a big difference in the ends you bowl from. As captain and coach and bowler, you need to work out your best options from either end.

I quite enjoy coming down to the Pavilion End sometimes. Especially if the ball’s not swinging and I can target the stumps and LBW a bit more.

Murtagh took 375 first-class wickets at Lord's

Q: Did it take you a while to get used to it?

It did. I moved in 2007 and I ended up bowling at that end because most of the guys wanted to bowl at the Pavilion End. I’d played there a couple of times before when I was at Surrey but it took the first season [at Middlesex] to really get to grips with it. It felt like I was falling away in my action because, as your feet land, it feels like your body’s tilting over to one side. It definitely takes a bit of getting used to.

Q: And how does it impact batters? Does it play on your mind?

100%. You’ve got to be very careful depending which end you bat whether your head’s falling over down the hill. Sometimes batters find it even more of a struggle than bowlers to adjust and work out their position on the crease.

Certainly the first couple of times, we’ve seen batters fall over a lot from batting at the Pavilion End. It’s just something you have to slightly adjust in either your feet or your centre of gravity or your weight position. It’s tricky for both batters and bowlers when they first come there.

Q: Is the slope more beneficial than overcast conditions?

I think so. If the ball’s swinging there and there’s a bit of grass on the wicket and the slope’s going that same way, you’ve got three things in your favour that are taking the ball away from a batter. If you can have one, two, or even three of those on any given day then it can turn into a really nice combination of factors in your favour. Lord’s is very dependent on the cloud cover and when the sun’s out as well. The slope’s probably the biggest factor in terms of trying to get the ball away from the right-hander at that end.

Q: Any advice you’d give to young bowlers who are bowling there for the first time?

In the morning, in the warm-ups, try and bowl on the square as much as you can. Try and get used to that. Try and train there the day before, get out on the square if there’s a practice strip. Have a go from both ends and work out which suits your style of bowling better and that will give you a bit of an upper hand when it comes to the match.

Q: And, slope impact or not, is it your favourite ground in the world to play at?

Yeah. The history, the tradition, the Long Room, the Pavilion, the food, the whole ground itself is a special place to play. It’s one I’ve been lucky enough to have called home for 16 years.