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Andrew Miller samples to delights of the day-night match in Dhaka, and finds out that it's not just at Lord's the gatemen are jobsworths
November 10, 2003
A Bangladeshi queue is a thing of beauty. Five hundred bodies long and growing, it ripples around the stadium perimeter with a Zen-like serenity - always orderly and utterly unrushed, waddling past the jostling of touts and the tooting taxis with one aim in mind - to reach Gate 19 and get into the ground. They would do well to get a move on ...
Dhaka has been engulfed by big-match madness. It is the busiest day's cricket that the country has seen in months, and it beggars belief that every single punter is being herded towards the same entrance. With no restraints on their movements, the flag-sellers and ticketless hordes are in a far better position to gauge what's going on within, as they hustle towards the unmanned barriers and peer through the tunnels at every suggestion of excitement.
One can only assume they are not relaying their findings, because events within the ground are unfolding at an unseemly haste. Bangladesh have slumped to 7 for 4 inside the first ten overs, and the match might be over before the shouting has begun. I wander over to the VIP entrance, to find a suitably VI gateman who can explain the reasoning behind this asinine policy. But, predictably enough, my way is barred by a bevy of security men. "Gate 21, gate 21," they chorus as they spot my press pass, and the top of my water bottle is confiscated for good measure. Quad erat demonstrandum.
It may be madness, but there is no doubting it is methodical. As the stands fill up like grains in an egg-timer, so too does Bangladesh's total. Every scoring shot brings a standing ovation (from punters grateful to have witnessed any play at all), and soon the floodlights blink to life. The innings and the day are drawing to a close, and it is almost time for the day's fasting to come to an end as well.
Darkness descends quickly when floodlights are masking the night sky. All of a sudden, the pitch is a luminous green and the players are marching around in their X-marks-the-spot shadows. This is the moment that the crowds live for, with the bonus that they can at last indulge in some comfort food. The Western Terrace is its usual hive of samosa salesmen and bhaji buyers, but this time it is iftar that they are serving up, and the feeding frenzy has to be seen to be believed.
No sooner have I poked my nose out of the tunnel, than a banana skin whizzes straight past it. The target, however, is not me but the Y-shaped ring of barbed-wire fencing that keeps the fans from the pitch. A huge cheer goes up as the first person lands an object in the basket, but having completed one objective, it is time to up the ante. The next task is to bounce a bottle off the heads of the two ballboys manning the edge of the pitch. One fling comes perilously close, and is flung back with terrific gusto. Another bristles past a ferocious security guard striding towards the scene, who replies with a bark of unheeded orders. And then, into the melee, comes a wicket.
That does it. If they were hungry before, they certainly aren't now. A fusillade of egg curry rains down on the poor souls in the lower tiers. The lower tiers reply with a volley of bottles and bananas, and before long the stands are dotted with bonfires as the match drifts away and the fun really starts.
Did I say this crowd was serene?
Andrew Miller is assistant editor of Wisden Cricinfo. He will be accompanying England throughout their travels in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
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