IT IS a sign of the times that so many sporting events these days seem to proceed only after a minute’s silence, usually to mark some tragedy or another.
Yesterday was no different, and few requests for respectful observance were more impeccably heeded or poignantly conducted than the tribute that Headingley paid to victims of the Manchester bombing.
On the sunniest of days, the darkest of shadows fell briefly as we remembered those who lost their lives in Monday’s terrorist attack, a remembrance made more visceral by the fact that the massacred were doing exactly what everyone present in the 14,198 Leeds crowd was doing – attending an entertainment event.
At 1.55pm, the players of England and South Africa lined up in front of the pavilion as spectators stood in quiet solidarity, with only the sound of a passing jet disturbing the silence of the May afternoon.
Although it would not be entirely accurate to say that it was business as usual at Headingley, there was no obvious sense of concern or alarm.
There was a heightened police presence, with armed officers visible inside and outside the ground after the UK terror threat had been raised to critical on Tuesday night, but they were more of a reassuring sight than a disquieting one.
Apart from the understandable sense of unease about being part of a large crowd in the current climate, spectators tried to enjoy themselves as they would in any circumstances.
There were the usual fancy dress costumes on display in the White Rose Stand, albeit not quite as many as perhaps there normally are, and as the terrorists with their hateful ideologies seek to divide and destroy, there could have been nothing more civilised or quintessentially English than a game of cricket to help lift spirits.
From Yorkshire’s point of view, the day went as well as could have been expected as Headingley put on its customary good show.
Mark Arthur, the club’s chief executive, pronounced himself pleased with the way that events unfolded, with the attendance not far shy of capacity.
“It was our first international match of the season, and although we’d have liked to have sold out, the people who came were blessed with good weather and two fantastic cricket teams,” he said. “The tragic events in Manchester did not impact on the attendance, and everyone who came to Headingley had a good day.
“Of course, it’s terribly sad what happened the other day, but you can see the resolve both from the people in Manchester and also elsewhere in the UK.
“We have to be more vigilant than ever before, and it’s very important that when people come to Headingley, they feel safe and secure.”
Yorkshire spent much of Tuesday reviewing their security measures in light of the atrocity at Manchester Arena.
“We went through our policies and then, when the national alert was put up to critical, we took further advice from the police,” said Arthur.
“There were armed police at the ground, but hopefully in an unobtrusive way so that people were comforted rather than worried or threatened.
“We’ve got a robust security policy in any case, and I think that people are far more understanding now about the need for bag searches, for example, than they were, say, about 10 years ago.
“The game in general has always been very conscious about its security and the measures it puts in place, and we meet as a matter of course regularly with the ECB and are always cross-checking our policies to make sure that we are bang up-to-date.”