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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
I have watched Pakistan play at home numerous times but never away. Over time, UAE has proven to be a second home to Pakistan's national team. It was a crucial match, and the prospect of watching the Australians tackle Saeed Ajmal's doosra live, was one of the motivating factors to watch this game. However, a visit to the commentary box, promised by a fellow journalist, certainly increased my excitement.
Key performer - Glenn Maxwell
It was a difficult decision, and though the competition between Mohammad Hafeez and Glenn Maxwell was tough, I would vouch for Maxwell. The young allrounder is a joy to watch. The way he played Ajmal under cracking pressure deadened the predominantly Pakistani crowd. The over in which he pulled Shahid Afridi for a six and four completely changed the dimension of the game.
One of the most irate aspects of this game was security; I got off to meet a friend in the press box but was instantly given a curt nod by the security personnel. Even after an explanation, he turned me down. The second instance of the security being a hindrance was when I had to go outside the stadium to get a spare battery. On my way back, I was refused entry even after showing my pass. The justification was that I should have gotten another pass when I had come out - highly confusing as there weren't any passes being given on my way out. After a lengthy debate and ringing my friend, I was finally let in. It was then explained to me that security has been tightened on the orders of the ICC Anti-Corruption Unit after a recent wave of increased match-fixing around the cricketing world, and understandably there would strictly be no compromise on this.
It's one thing to sit in front of a television and read the weather forecast but it's entirely different to be physically in the middle of the packed stadium in the humid desert heat. The crowd, however, kept themselves well hydrated at all intervals, so much that the water salesman ran out of supplies. The humidity was so intense, at one point I spotted a journalist waving his passport across his face for air. The Australian players used ice jackets and there were plenty of dressing room visits for ice baths to somehow reduce the effect.
I was seated in the stands near long-on and it provided me with a spectacular view of the packed stadium with a deafening crowd, playing horns and drums. The man who was playing happened to be seated right beside me, leaving my ear drums ringing after the fall of each Australian wicket. On the downside, the audience was much less friendly to the Australian team, drastically bringing down the sporting atmosphere of the match. There were only half a dozen Australian flags in the stadium and, ironically, were being waved by Pakistanis. Unsurprisingly, this was met by jeering and booing by the rest of the crowd. Overall a highly charged, passionate and thoroughly enjoyable crowd but equally biased.
One thing I'd have changed about the day
The strange timing of the matches. On my way to the stadium, a local taxi driver complained how difficult it was to watch a match on a weekday which finishes at nearly 2AM local time. The ICC believed that starting matches earlier in the day would make it unplayable as the heat would be unbearable for the players. However, a different season could have been considered to overcome this problem - the matches could have been pushed a month forward when the weather in the UAE is comparatively cooler in the day (drops down to 23 degree Celsius).
Marks out of 10
It certainly was not one of the most interesting matches I have witnessed. However, the threat posed by the Pakistani spinners and a thrashing reply from Australia, combined with an enthusiastic crowd were definitely the upsides of game. It's a shame the nature of the local climate and overzealous security took the shine away from the game.
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