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Andrew Miller samples the atmosphere at the MA Aziz Stadium on the first day of the second Test between Bangladesh and England
October 29, 2003
Mashrafe Mortaza bowls with a Great Britain flag behind him, but there were was plenty of support for Bangladesh as well
© Getty Images
Something has changed about Bangladesh, and it's more than just the scenery. But where Dhaka harboured doubt, in Chittagong there is certainty in the stands, and the effect is rubbing off on the players.
The MA Aziz Stadium is a homelier ground than the Bangabandhu. Its unambitious arrangement lends itself to small but passionate pockets of fans, who no longer need convincing of their team's potential. You see, victory is assured these days - not necessarily in this match or even the next - but sometime in the ever-advancing future. And as Bangladesh once again fought toe-to-toe with England's batsmen, the drumbeats and flagwaving from the stands heralded the approach of that rather delayed new dawn.
The new mood was even being conveyed by those typically earnest placards that many supporters choose to wave. "I believe Bangladesh will be one of the best teams in the world soon," read one, in neat black writing that became understandably cramped towards the bottom of the page. Another even called for a bit of respite for umpire Asoka de Silva, who has been given a fearful drubbing for his unfortunate roles in Bangladesh's last two defeats. "Asoka is a good umpire," read the pronouncement, "but bad for batsmen."
As at Dhaka, most of the stands have been shielded from the fierce sun by a series of temporary awnings. One top-tier enclave at midwicket, however, had somehow lucked out. Far from being a deterrent, however, it had become an assembly point for many of the more raucous members of the crowd, who, to a man, had protected the backs of their heads with those four-and-six cards, strapped on with rubber bands. By accident or design, these bore the logo of a local company, "Confidence Cement" - a strangely apt sponsor for a team under construction.
In the neighbouring pen, a large section of the spectators were playing volleyball with a giant Winnie the Pooh - as you do - while over on the opposite side of the ground (and released from the solitary refinement of Dhaka's hospitality areas) the Barmy Army were back on song. They took England's now-customary post-lunch collapse in good heart, and when Graham Thorpe collected the Martyn Love Memorial Award for his second-ball duck, they even persuaded the entire stand to chant for the underdogs ...
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