Bangladesh's balloon bursts - slowly
Chittagong has got that Friday feeling once again - it's just a shame that the players have not been informed. In front of the largest and most expectant audience of England's tour so far, Bangladesh's batsmen have folded miserably, and a near-capacity crowd has been left to stare forlornly through the fencing as the last rites of a miserable mismatch are played out in front of them.
It goes without saying that they'll bang their drums till the sun goes down, and the flags will wave defiantly from every corner of the ground. But the vast majority of these spectators will have heard rumours of an upturn in their team's fortunes, without actually witnessing it in the flesh. After today's efforts, they will be entitled to wonder if it has all be a cruel hoax.
Of course, one-day cricket is an entirely different ball-game to Tests - a fact that has not been lost on Chittagong's organising committee, an inestimable body of men who require the first 30 pages of the 56-page souvenir brochure for their praises to be adequately sung. They have provided a suitably jazzed-up feel for the occasion, by tying an array of helium balloons to the fence in front of the pavilion. By lunch, however, all but one have been popped, prised free, or purloined. Deflating maybe, but rather apt.
The crowd, which the Bangladeshi players seem to fear, are equally piqued. A posse of placard-wavers at third man have brought along a red marker pen and an entire 2003 "Sights of Bangladesh" calendar, on the back of which they scrawl appropriate comments at regular intervals. One of the latest features a cartoon of a ram, whose significance I don't quite grasp, and the legend "Bangladesh - 0/10". It is clearly very droll, but isn't it a little generous? Surely it should be 0 out of 42, or 43, or whatever the tally now reads.
In many ways, Bangladesh's continued struggles at one-day level are strangely reassuring. They are a reminder of the extent to which their Test team has developed in so short a time, and they are proof that not all of Asia regards one-day cricket as the be-all and end-all. But for the eager hordes of fans who flock to the ground, silver linings are little consolation when the cloud is quite this dense and foreboding.