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First-person reports from the stands
I don't get to see much (all right, any) live cricket, so this was a no-brainer. I would have gone no matter who was playing. As for a prediction, England's dire performance against the Lions in Sharjah made me favour Pakistan.
I'm an Indian who supports New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, but I do have a soft spot for Pakistan. That said, most of my cricket-loving friends are English, so it averaged out to about neutral. Once the match began I was rooting for England, purely because they were playing better.
It was a tie between Kevin Pietersen and Eoin Morgan. England were wobbling at the start of their innings after losing a couple of quick wickets - including that of captain, Paul Collingwood run out for a duck - but they soon took complete control.
One thing I would have changed
Having the stadium - which is excellent, as are the facilities - moved to somewhere more accessible than the wilds of Dubai Sports City, and having the whole event be better organised. Finding the stadium, even for someone like me, who has lived here for over a decade, is a herculean task, and there are no proper parking arrangements once you've managed to decipher the inadequate directions and circumvent the lack of road signs to get there.
Also, I would have liked to see Joe Denly get some runs. He's had an awful season so far, and I think he's so much better than this.
A small interlude involving Stuart Broad and an advertisement made me laugh out loud. Matt Prior fumbled behind the stumps and Broad stood with both hands on hips. The big screen camera zoomed in on his incredulous expression and then cut to a brief ad for Head and Shoulders shampoo. Classic.
Jonathan Trott, Denly, and briefly, Graeme Swann fielded closest to where I was sitting, but they were more or less left alone by the crowd, who were mostly supporting Pakistan. Broad, fielding further along, got a steady stream of what I hope was just banter. When Trott failed to catch the six Fawad Alam hit to deep square-leg, the Pakistani fans went wild and let him have it for a good few minutes. One even leaned out over the barrier to clap Trott on the back as he picked up the ball. What was stranger was a security guard watched the fan lay hands on the England player about two feet in front of him and didn't even blink. When Pakistan fielded, Umar Gul got a lot of encouraging yells when he took up a position right in front of me, but it didn't seem to help.
Shot of the day
Morgan's six over fine leg to win the match. He had hit Gul's previous two deliveries for consecutive fours, and from where I was placed - at roughly deep-cover region - the six seemed to explode off the bat.
I had brought my camera, with a 250mm zoom lens, both to take pictures with and to use as a substitute for binoculars. It did give the security palpitations, though, and I was twice asked to stop using it altogether, and once told flat-out that I couldn't take pictures of the players' balconies.
The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Pakistan, which you would expect from the number of subcontinental immigrants Dubai has. There was never a moment of silence, between the rhythm of the drums and the constant chanting and stentorian bellows of "Pakistan - zindabad" and "Jeetega haan jeetega, Pakistan jeetega!" There was also a healthy English presence in the stands. There were at least two giant England flags in evidence, and a vocal group of young girls who cheered and shouted "Go England!" Pietersen got the biggest cheers, by a long shot. Even the Pakistan fans got vocal when he walked out to bat.
Given that Pakistan were playing, I had expected lots of green flags and painted faces, and there were plenty of those, but it was sequins that formed a big part of most costumes. I tried to think what these fans were possibly thinking when they designed the outfits: "We're playing England in Twenty20s. I shall start putting together my ensemble right away! Floor-length black velvet robe and floppy hat covered entirely in bright yellow and gold sequins? Perfect. Oh, I do hope the guys wear their black stovepipe hats wrapped in bright green Christmas tinsel again, I love those!"
Also seen: fake Afros of all colours, little girls in salwar kameez made out of Pakistani flags, and, utterly inexplicably, three huge Bedazzled stuffed animals - two dogs and a teddy bear covered from head to toe in red, gold and yellow rhinestones and sequins.
The ubiquitous Twenty20 cheerleaders were there, presumably trying not to think about the hideous white-and-blue shiny outfits they'd been made to wear. There was lots of upbeat Bollywood music for Pakistan, and oddly, lots of Latin-infused R&B for England. Pitbull's "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)" must have been played at least a dozen times. Maybe Ryan Sidebottom's hair or Alastair Cook's Maybelline-ad eyes misled the organisers into thinking one or both of them had Latin roots.
Banner of the day
A little boy of about eight months was wearing a massive bib/cape/Jedi robe with his name on it followed by the words: "Pakistan's Next Big BOOM BOOM!"
Pakistan losing the plot slightly was disappointing, but some fine performances from Pietersen, Morgan and the England bowlers made up for it. Twenty20s are like cricket soufflé anyway - light, pleasant, insubstantial, and leave you kind of craving the actual sustenance of a Test or even an ODI - so the actual cricket was secondary, for most, to seeing some big-name performers and having fun.
Marks out of 10
7. Great atmosphere, and the fans were for the most part entirely supportive, cheering players of both teams, and once there, the Dubai stadium is fantastic. Even the ridiculously-named Ring of Fire lights do an excellent job. But the overall experience was definitely marred by how hard it was to get to there, and then to leave.
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