Andrew Miller's first experience of Pakistan came on England's last tour of the country in 2000-01. It was a series made memorable by England's thrilling Test victory in the dark at Karachi, but before that occurred, there was an eventful one-day fixture at Rawalpindi - in which more fans turned up than tickets were available, and chaos ensued.

At every turnstile, heroic numbers of people crushed against each other in the most solid single-files imaginable. Already every neighbouring rooftop was packed, every branch of every tree was occupied and, on a thin stretch of fence with a partial view of the wicket, a row of spectators sat perched like a batch of baby barn owls. The police milled around as police do, very much a presence but, the odd lashing aside, largely passive.

Half-an-hour later, I wandered out to the back of the pavilion where David "Bumble" Lloyd was leaning on the railings, stoking his pipe, watching a police cavalry charge taking place beneath him. The queues had scattered, naturally enough, but like iron filings on a magnet, they always rushed back to the same spot the moment the police had passed by.

Stones were pinging in all directions, and yet I noticed the posse on the railings had remained steadfastly unmoved, except that now they had all tied handkerchiefs round their faces, like a batch of bad-assed bandidos. I had two options: go back to the press box and watch England lose, or ... I dashed off to grab my camera.

It had all seemed somewhat stage-managed from my pavilion vantage-point, especially as no-one else had batted an eyelid. Down on the ground through, it was a different matter. The police had literally taken up the drawbridge by the time I had reached the bottom of the steps; a sturdy-looking portcullis stood between me and the warring parties.

Grudgingly they lifted it, but only a fraction, and as I limbo-danced under, a suicide-squad charged through the gap in the other direction, braving some vicious lathi-blows and several flying boots before retreating to seek out another weak spot. All around the perimeter of the ground, people were hanging off the edge of the stands, attempting to haul themselves up over the protective fencing, only to be brought to earth by a crashing blow to the ribs.

And still the bear-baiting went on, as scores of white-robed adrenalin junkies crept as close as they dared before turning tail and legging it. Except now, with the police on horseback and seriously pissed off, the stakes were somewhat higher.

And yet, in the midst of it all, the "rioters" remained the same friendly, charming people they had been ever since I arrived. "Hellohowareyou's" rang out all around, and often I would be in mid-conversation when said person and twenty others around him would fly off and settle several yards away, like a flock of disturbed seagulls.

By staying by and large in among the rioters, I avoided the hale of stones that flew intermittently over my head. As we made our way round the ground though, I became acutely aware of a burning sensation in my nose and throat, and my eyes started to water. Underneath a nearby tree, I noticed about half a dozen red-eyed rioters with cloths over their mouths, who had evidently taken the brunt of the tear-gas canister when it had first been launched. I myself was ill-equipped to combat the fumes, having carelessly elected to wear a smart shirt that couldn't be pulled over my mouth, so I shielded my eyes as best I could and stumbled on through the haze.

By now the open road was visible and the full scale of the chaos could be seen. Where there had once been a busy dual-carriageway, there now existed a warzone. At one end, a mass of angry youths (students, it transpired) stood shouting and hurling bricks; at the other, a line of policemen in full riot gear marched purposefully towards the posse, backed up by a hefty blue armoured car. And at the fringes, skirmishes with the mounted police were taking place. Occasionally someone would cut and run, only to be reined in by the cavalry and beaten savagely on the spot.

The naked aggression on display was quite unlike anything I had seen earlier; this was a genuine release of pent-up fury, totally unrelated to the cricket. I hung around gawping for a while, then, conscious of a sudden vulnerability, I did what anyone else would have done in the same situation - I went to the funfair.

There was actually a certain amount of logic behind this decision. Firstly, it would stop me from gawping; secondly, by braving the Big Wheel I would theoretically be able to take an aerial photograph of the chaos. The gatekeeper had other ideas. Evidently fed up of fugitives rampaging through his grounds, it seemed he was turning away anyone over the age of five. So not for the first time that day, I found myself entering an entertainment complex via a gap in the railings.

The Big Wheel wasn't very big really, nor on closer inspection was it particularly wheel-shaped (elliptical maybe?) And its baskets see-sawed alarmingly. Still, it provided the highest vantage point in the neighbourhood, so I climbed aboard. My counterweight was a delicate little Muslim boy who looked like he'd never tortured a butterfly in his life. I hoped his mother knew where he was. Actually, when a policeman appeared at the base of the wheel and started beating seven shades out of a man in the queue, I rather hoped she didn't.

By now the rioting was dying down. Most of the students were retreating down a nearby alley (off to trash the library, it later transpired), but outside the ground, a touch of the surreal had set in. The queues had returned, as cramped as ever, and every now and then the police would extract some poor unfortunate for a salutary thrashing. But elsewhere the lathis had been sheathed and there were handshakes all round - "Jolly good riot, same time next game?" - "Right you are, old bean."

At one point, in a blur of linen, someone scampered up the floodlight, and remained there unchallenged for a good five minutes. The onlookers cheered as he waved and bowed. Presently, however, a burly moustachioed lathi-bearing policeman, looking for all the world like Sylvester the Cat in pursuit of Tweetie Pie, began a slow, deliberate, inevitable pursuit of his quarry. The crowd gasped, then hissed and booed this pantomime villain, Tweetie, meanwhile, decided the only way was up, with inevitable consequences. Pure theatre.

England's batting wasn't so much theatre as a spectacle. They were bowled out for 158, decimated - not for the last time - by Pakistan's spinners. Marcus Trescothick and Alec Stewart had felt the effects of the tear gas as it had floated across from the concourse, and the rest of the team seemed equally disorientated as well, as Pakistan set about securing themselves a 2-1 series win.