Give me a cricket match venue it is physically possible for me to get to and I'll be there. This was largely a last-minute affair, with me and my family booking tickets barely 24 hours before the game. It was a bit of a drive from London to Birmingham, but I wasn't going to miss the chance to watch Pakistan v Australia, and my first game at Edgbaston. Considering Pakistan had lost their previous 12 encounters against Australia, I was predicting a 13th loss, though hoping for the opposite to happen. I was pleasantly surprised.
Pakistan, without a doubt. I did root for Shane Watson to perform well. But it clearly didn't make a difference as he departed for a duck.
Umar Akmal, the only meaningful contributor to Pakistan's score, with a delightful 64 off 31. The green lips were an interesting touch too. That said, Umar Gul and Mohammed Aamer had pretty impressive spells, particularly towards the end.
One thing I'd have changed
The horrendously annoying bunch of guys a couple of rows in front of me holding up a flag literally the size of the pitch. Some heated exchanges (i.e. yelling) took place before they finally sat down and everyone behind them could get a view of the cricket.
As always, we packed the car with crisps, fizzy drinks, bottles of cold water, sun visors and hats, none of which we actually remembered to bring into the ground. We didn't forget the banners, though. Those came in handy.
Face-off I relished
I was quite excited about watching Umar Akmal against the Australian pace attack. He hammered Dirk Nannes and Shaun Tait for a bit, and though Tait eventually got him, the damage had been done.
Another one I was pretty keen on was Mike Hussey against Saeed Ajmal (we all remember what happened the last time they met!). It turned out to be a bit anti-climactic; Hussey wasn't nearly as destructive today.
Hussey's dismissal was greeted with a unanimous cheer/sigh of relief from a Pakistani crowd, who felt safe in the thought that the chances of another Hussey-esque rescue were gone.
Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Ajmal and Abdul Razzaq all fielded near our stand. The highlight, however, was Shahid Afridi. The roar from the crowd was immense, and Afridi turned to acknowledge the cheers and premature standing ovation. When Ajmal got David Warner the very next ball, the Eric Hollies Stand went ballistic.
Shot of the day
All three of Umar Akmal's sixes - a couple landing in the stands. In fact, his entire innings was a treat to watch.
The stands were more or less packed, and for a ground half under construction, the noise level was greater than those of full-capacity crowds at much larger stadiums. The vuvuzela craze from the FIFA World Cup in South Africa seems to have caught on, and the noise was bordering on deafening. There was also half a Mexican wave going around the stands through most of the second innings.
One in every two people (myself included) was wearing a Pakistan t-shirt of some kind or the other. Slightly more out-of-the-ordinary sights included: a man dressed in a white top hat and coat covered with tiny Pakistan flags, complete with sparkly green wig and painted face; a stuffed monkey wearing a Pakistan shirt being thrown into the air in the adjacent stand; and someone who looked like a cross between a ninja turtle and a leprechaun.
As with most matches involving Pakistan, most of the entertainment was provided by the crowd. There was "Down Under" every time an Australian came out to bat and "Dil Dil Pakistan" for the other team, as well as some "Boom Boom Pow" for one particular player (no prizes for guessing who).
Banner of the day
"Do us a favour, Afridi: DON'T use Ajmal for the last over." And the usual 500 "Boom Boom Afridi" banners.
The match itself was pretty engaging till Australia lost their ninth wicket. It could have been much closer had Johnson managed to fire. The atmosphere was akin to that of a stadium in Pakistan - you would never guess the match was being played at a neutral venue if the crowds were anything to go by. It didn't have the charm and sophistication of Lord's or the thrill and madness of the National Stadium in Karachi, but I rank this day at Edgbaston as one of my best experiences in a cricket stadium.
Marks out of 10
9. It could have been 10, except the honking and screeching became too much to bear at times. I also regret leaving the stand during the innings break to get an ice-cream, which meant I ended up missing the minute or so Shane Watson batted. Pakistan finally beat Australia, though, so I was certainly not complaining.