Pakistan Tour (UAE) 2015
How to Lose a Test Match in Forty Five Minutes
Awake at 6am with my body clock all over the place.
Breakfast in the chaotic dining area consists of chicken nuggets, boiled eggs and toast, while Mr Blade prefers the more sophisticated melange of curry, noodles and onion rings. Freddie and Tremers appear and we hail a taxi to the cricket ground.
We are told that the journey will take 45 minutes, which becomes the standing taxi joke for the week.
The ground is in fact situated at Sportcity, which is a full 30km away from our hotel.
Driving past building sites and skyscrapers and eventually out into the desert, we become aware of the complete lack of wild-life and the sheer desolation of the surroundings.
The Nullarbor meets Spaghetti Junction.
Outside the ground we are met by Tremers' friend Smithy, a Yorkshireman straight out of the groundsman's union. Smithy now specialises in covers, so I believe, and I intend to get him to look at my settee and armchairs just as soon as I get home.
PC Tintin has kindly bought us all advance tickets for today's play in Premium West, a stand with its own licensed bar, so we wait in the searing heat for PCT, Tufty and Luke to arrive.
PCT and Luke have made their way to Dubai via Royal Brunei, the 'dry' airline that allows passengers to open their duty free purchases whilst in transit on the plane, then compliantly supplying mixers to allow the entire cabin to become $hit-faced.
When they eventually turn up, it seems that our boys have consumed at least half a litre of vodka before their plane even landed in Dubai.
We all attempt to progress into the ground but are thwarted by the draconian search procedures employed by the local security company, which is called 'Ask.'
Maybe it should consider renaming itself 'Ask, the Answer is No.'
Water importation is banned and all bottles are confiscated.
Food is banned, on the basis that this is available inside, and all sandwiches etc are binned on the spot.
A full body search comes next and we are all frisked like punk criminals.
The upstanding and law abiding PC Tintin is then advised that his 'large' camera is banned too, and has to request an audience with the head security guy to get his 'large' camera in a procedure that he has to go through every day of the match. Serves him right for having such a big one!
We inspect the amenities inside the ground. The food offering consists almost exclusively of KFC, Pizza Hut and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. I will never criticise the pie, chips and gravy 'specials' served up by the chef in the Old Trafford Pavilion again.
The bar seems more optimistic, as I walk towards it, I espy six gleaming bar pumps, so it looks as if we may have a decent selection.
Fosters, Fosters, Fosters, Fosters, Fosters and Fosters.
Which must be ideal if you happen to like Fosters, apart from the price, about £8, we estimate, for three quarters of a pint in a paper cup.
The crowd is sparse although quite a few of the 'regulars' are present. I quickly spot Lord Halifax and Farmer John sat nearby. Posh Margaret and her Howzat crew are already in position in the padded seats. Higgy, Robbo and a small Barmy Army contingent are offset to the right in Premium East.
Although modern video screens are in place at the ground, the displays thereupon leave much to be desired, with run rates being shown all day rather than a traditional batting card, causing much chagrin amongst our scorecard completing brethren. Posh Margaret and Bob come over to see us at lunch and inform us that Richard is apoplectic.
There are also no video replays. DRS situations become a guessing game in the stands, as well as for the third umpire!
A low-key, soporific first day sees England losing the toss again, and despite bowling well, making little impact on the Pakistani batsmen, who finish the day on 250-4.
We had been warned in advance about the chaotic departure arrangements from this ground and in particular the shortage of taxis, and sure enough a massive queue for taxis had formed by the time we left. We decided to walk up the road to try and jump a cab, which proved a successful manoeuvre. However, with five of us and only four allowed in the taxi, what to do, Simple. We all pile in and tell the protesting driver to get on with it.
With Smithy perched precariously on Tremers lap and over sixty stones sat on the back seat, the car's suspension seemed under considerable threat. Despite this, we eventually got back to Dubai City, although for Tremers at least, the journey seemed to last a lot longer than 45 minutes.
We did better than some people. We are told the following day that over seventy people were still waiting outside the ground for taxis at 8pm despite the cricket finishing at around 5.30pm.
In the evening the Irish bar beckons, but Mr Blade has discovered live camel racing on our hotel TV and tonight, he is going nowhere.
Joined by our good friend Higgy, we drink McGettigans dry, accompanied by some excellent live music.
A round of five pints of anything costs 200 Dirhams, or around forty quid.
Dubai is clearly not a place for your Stag party.
However smoking is allowed inside the bars in Dubai, and part-timer smokers PC Tintin, Tufty and Tremers make the most of this golden opportunity. The smell of awful, sickly sweet American tipped cigarettes permeates everywhere. Ex-smokers, eh?
During the evening Tufty discovers Hawking's First Law of Physics, that is, leave the table to go to the toilet, and your pint of Hoegaarden disappears as if by magic. The following five minutes, as he searches the pub for the missing beer, are hilarious, although an autopsy of the stomachs of Smithy and Tremers might have proved more productive.
Paul Reiffel and his wife appear amongst us once more. He must be a real sucker for Pommie punishment!
A local with rather odd facial hair arrangements seems to take exception to our collective singing of "Is she really going out with him?" to his girlfriend, and becomes quite threatening, resulting in our early departure from the pub to prevent any nastiness. We turn in at around 2am.
An excellent night was enjoyed by all.