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Pakistan supporters have not had much to shout about at Old Trafford as their team have been bettered and bruised. However, even if the roles had been reversed the cheers would not have been ringing around the ground
July 29, 2006
After the traditionally refined support of Lord's the anticipation was that Old Trafford would bring the real Pakistan fans out, accompanied by their whistles, horns and flags. During the 2001 Test, which Pakistan won during a mad final session on the last day, the ground more resembled Multan than Manchester. When Waqar Younis claimed the final wicket a chaotic pitch invasion followed. Similar scenes accompanied their one-day defeat against India in the 1999 World Cup and their victory over England during the 2003 Natwest Challenge.
However, this time all the singing has been from the Barmy Army as England's supporters have dominated the stands, much as their team has dominated the match. "It has been a surprise especially given our past experiences," admitted Jim Cumbes, the Lancashire chief executive. The lack of noise and flags from the Pakistan fans that have turned out can be partly put down to the ICC's extensive list of prohibited items, which means anything remotely resembling an item of fun is barred from the ground.
The sheer lack of numbers from the Pakistan community takes a little more explaining. No Shoaib Akhtar may have played a part, but England don't have their home-town hero, Andrew Flintoff, either and it certainly isn't down to a lack of marketing to the local communities. Lancashire have actively gone out to sell the match in the area after learning from previous games when away support has outnumbered the home fans.
Mohammed Ullah, from Longsight, is one Pakistan fan who has turned up and conceded the flat atmosphere for his team was "awfully disappointing" and added: "If a [Pakistan] wicket falls it's dead, or if you celebrate when they do get a wicket you get people pointing at you."
One factor he pointed at to explain the make-up of support was ticket prices, saying people he knew who'd come in previous years found it too expensive. A key reason, however, for the difference lies behind England being very sellable themselves. Though the Ashes victory seems a long time ago, in terms of performances on the field, they are still a major draw for the public. Tickets for this match sold like hot cakes from the moment they want on sale in November - when last summer's success was still very fresh. No marketing campaign was needed to encourage people to come and watch the Ashes winners. "The popularity of England sold the tickets," said Cumbes, "We went out around the Pakistani areas but tickets went quickly. We were sold out three or four weeks ago."
A cultural difference has also played a part. English fans are very used to getting in early to watch Test matches and even when the team has been less attractive than currently, many grounds - if not always Old Trafford - have been packed. Other supporters around the world, Pakistanis included, decide nearer the time whether to go down and support their side.
"They have a different way of doing things," explained Cumbes, "and when tickets are sold in advance it will often favour the home side." Grounds in Pakistan are never filled for Tests so fans can swan in all day long. Here, however, by the time the fans were considering whether to watch Inzamam and Co. tickets were few and far between.
The bottom line, though, is that the ground has been a sell-out for the first three days and continues a resurgence for Old Trafford which started last summer against Australia. The bean counters haven't quite been able to shout about turning 10,000 people away from gates, but there will be plenty of smiles about the full houses - whoever they may support.
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