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Fancy that fancy dress

Watermelons for hats, bearded ladies in wedding dresses, pink wigs - it's almost enough to take your mind off the cricket

Fans watch the game, West Indies v South Africa, World Cup, 10 April 2007
"Shame about the game, wot" © AFP

For reasons that are still not entirely clear, Sky chose a boxing metaphor to introduce Thursday evening's game. It was, we were assured, a heavyweight bout between two in-form teams that was going to go the distance. It didn't sound very plausible. A far more accurate summary of the nature of this sporting contest came from the Trent Bridge DJ at the end of the second over, with England already two wickets down. "Stop!", implored MC Hammer. "It's Hammertime!" It certainly was.

But delusional thinking about England's place in the cricket world extends beyond the Sky commentary box. Paul Collingwood was of the opinion that it has been a rollercoaster tournament for his lads. Has it? Thus far they have lost to an ordinary team, beaten an ordinary team, and lost to a very good team. As rollercoaster rides go, it has been low on thrills. Of course, England are not about to throw the towel in. They are, after all, contractually obliged to fulfill their remaining fixtures.

And at least the English are pulling their weight off the field. Until now, World Twenty20 haute couture has left something to be desired. The hats have been good. We've seen leprechaun toppers, Maharajah-style crowns, and on Monday a South African fan had scooped the innards from a watermelon, scrawled his country's name on the outside in thick black marker and squeezed it onto his head. You won't see millinery like that at Royal Ascot.

Yet for all the great headgear, there has been a lacklustre showing in the fancy-dress category. Well, on Thursday night, the English crowd upped their game. There were men in inflatable suits. There were men in pink fluffy wigs. There was a scantily clad cohort of rather merry Romans. And there was a trio of companions who summed up what this tournament and Twenty20 is all about: a Tellytubby, a bearded lady in a wedding dress, and a knight with a plastic shield.

Unfortunately, their commitment to entertain was not reciprocated by the men in dirty blue. Booing began to echo across the ground and reached a crescendo in the 11th over when mild mannered Dr Owais blocked yet another delivery. It was then that a strange transformation overtook the Middlesex man. He became wild-eyed Mr Shah, stepping back with a swagger and a snarl and heaving the ball ferociously to all parts. Sadly, the potion soon wore off, and as usual, no one else had thought to bring any.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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