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For the most part it was a warm sunny day in Dhaka
October 21, 2003
A spot of bother with the water table
It is a curious fact of Dhaka life, that no matter how chock-full the streets will become in the heat of the early afternoon, there is barely a hint of traffic until rush hour begins on the dot of 9am. Perhaps this explains the apparent lack of interest as the inaugural Test between Bangladesh and England got underway in front of a phalanx of empty seats at the Bangabandhu Stadium. More likely, however, the punters had merely checked their weather forecasts.
It all started so well for Bangladesh. After Khaled Mahmud won an important toss, Javed Omar and Hannan Sarkar battled through 21 deliveries before nicking their first run. The sky seemed hazy but the weather was warm, and it was surely only a matter of time before the sun burst through the clouds ...
Well, something burst all right, but it wasn't quite what had been anticipated. Sitting in the elevated exclusion of the press box, it wasn't immediately apparent why the players were fleeing the field. On Friday, a snake in the grass had caused a stampede in the crowd, and here was a similarly incongruous exodus. Sure, there were one or two innocuous spots landing on the path outside, but nothing to justify quite such pandemonium.
And then the heavens opened. It lasted for barely ten minutes, but its impact was of apocalyptic proportions. On the far side of the ground, the stands had been covered with a range of butcher's-striped awnings, ostensibly to keep the sun off the heads of the fans. These quickly folded into a collection of soggy water-chutes, depositing the rains in a cascade onto the lower tiers. At the entrance to the press box stood a rubbish-bin with the words "Use me" boldly emblazoned on its side. This was quickly filled to the brim by a rogue drainpipe - a less conventional use than might have been anticipated.
As for the outfield - the water table at the Bangabandhu had been the subject of so much speculation in the first week of this tour, that it was no great surprise to anyone when huge rippling quagmires bubbled back to the surface within minutes of the downpour. The groundstaff did their best, piling tarpaulin upon tarpaulin to soften the impact, but it was all pretty futile. When one of the supersoppers appeared to drown as its squeegees rolled onto the ground, that was emphatically that.
For the teams and officials, it was the dampest of squibs. For the range of expert analysts and commentators flown in specially for the occasion, it was even more frustrating. Wasim Akram, who had been all set to launch his new career as a commentator for ESPN, passed the time by loitering on the roof of the stadium, fag in hand, waving to his adoring fans on the concourse below.
Within half-an-hour, the clouds had passed and Dhaka was bathed once more in glorious sunshine. By the scheduled lunchbreak, only the merest trace of dampness remained on the streets and pavements outside. But the rains had had their say, and for England that meant another morning of confinement in the team hotel.
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