<
>

International cricket comes to Sylhet

Paul Stirling and William Porterfield put on 80 for Ireland ICC

Choice of game
It was a day we, the people of Sylhet, had eagerly been waiting for - the first international match at our stadium in Lakkatura. Although I had initially thought about watching the match from the comforts of home (and obsessing over what the commentators say about the stadium), a last minute cancellation by a friend's relative presented me with something that is unheard of when it comes to World Cups - a spare ticket. Cricket had finally arrived at our beloved city and I rushed to the stadium to join the celebration.

The stadium
Like many concerned Sylheti fans, I had visited the stadium many times while it was under construction and to see it finally transform into an international venue swelled my heart with pride. The Sylhet Divisional stadium is not in the middle of a chaotic urban jungle; in fact it is happily situated in the middle of a tea garden making the walk from the gate to the stadium itself nothing short of pleasant. As I took my seat in the stands I couldn't help but admire how unique and amazing the Green Gallery looks, although I doubt whether anyone will be able to see a patch of grass during any of Bangladesh's matches.

Key performer
As it turns out keeping your focus on the match, where your own team is not playing, is actually quite difficult. Even Billy Bowden walking along the boundary lines was a huge distraction. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Stirling's innings. The opening stand between Stirling and William Porterfield basically took the game away from Zimbabwe and if Ireland hadn't made it harder for themselves, they would have won the game easily.

Filling the gaps
In T20s there's hardly much time between innings however, the ground staff managed to squeeze in a hamster race which ended with the contestants having to hit the stumps. Very innovative. The DJ kept us entertained throughout with songs, a few dance numbers and our very own Sylheti folk music.

One thing I'd have changed
Ever since I'd heard that Jonty Rhodes will be commentating on the qualifying games in Sylhet, I was over the moon. So naturally I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the fielding legend. But no, it was not to be. Sigh.

Shot of the day
My friend and I were discussing Kevin O'Brien's innings against England in the 2011 World Cup. A few seconds later he whacked one for a six. Remember the pink hair?

Banner of the day
There were many people holding up banners demanding matches of Bangladesh be played here in Sylhet but the one that caught my eye was the one that said 'Welcome to 2nd London'. Bethnal Green or Whitechapel would have been more appropriate.

The last over
Ireland had pretty much sealed the match, or so we thought. I sneered at my friend when she mentioned the word hat-trick, but by the fourth ball of the over she was the one who was laughing. A large section of the crowd was cheering for Ireland while the others opted for more patriotic chants of Bangladesh or Sylhet. Even the last ball was quite eventful with the non-striker colliding with the bowler and Brendan Taylor failing to hit the stumps.

Overall
I didn't go home with the jubilation of winning or with the disappointment of losing. Yet I felt wonderful and thoroughly satisfied to have been able to witness the spectacle of cricket so close to home. I would like to convey my gratitude to everyone who made this possible. I look forward to the two games to come in the men's qualifying round and the many games left of the Women's T20.