Pakistan Tour 2005

Pakistan Tour 2005

After having a wonderful year of following England, first over the Year end 2004 to New year 2005 in South Africa (for a series win) and then the famous Ashes victory of the 2005 summer the winter tour for 2005/6 was upon us and first up was Pakistan.

After having a ring around with the usual suspects it became quite apparent to me that nobody was up for the trip to the Republic Of Pakistan for the obvious reasons of safety and security. So after some brief soul searching I decided to go alone.

First up was to secure my right of passage to our ex-colonial friends so spent 4 hours of my life one morning queuing up in the Pakistan Embassy in Longsight, Manchester for my Visa while meeting some very interesting characters. One lad commented 'why you going there man? nothing for you, stay at home' while another middle aged chap struck up conversation with me on the dangers of Pakistan and what to avoid so I didn't get ripped off or worse still turned over. He went a step further in the end and gave me his phone number. Over the next few weeks I spoke to him regular and at the same time he spoke to his family who lived in Rawalpindi about my impending visit. I was due to fly out to Oman and then transfer for a flight to Lahore, Pakistan so he arranged it with his brother to meet me at the airport. His brother lived four hours drive from Lahore and then it was 4 hours drive to get to Faisalabad where I was joining the tour where the second test was due to take place.

Pakistan here I come

The time came to leave from London on 18th Feb 2005. By now the Multan test had been and gone (12-17 Nov). Pakistan 271 and 341 had beaten us 418 and 175 by 22 runs. After transferring flights in Oman and now heading to Lahore two other England fans were on the same flight so I struck up a chat with them and they had no way of getting to Faisalabad that so that was it, they were joining me on my car journey with a bloke I was hoping would be waiting for me in Lahore. Sure enough the man in question was there with an older relative and we squeezed into a small car with no boot space due to the gas tank in the boot and set off bags in our laps. After many wrong turns and dusty tracks we arrived in Faisalabad and then headed straight to the ground as play was already in motion. We said our goodbyes to my new Pakistani mates and after crossing their palms with the equivalent of 40 quid they headed off home very happy. It is a truly massive earner where they are from being more than a month's wages, but if it wasn't for them we wouldn't have seen day one of the test. Cheers chaps.

2nd Test Faisalabad 20th -24th Feb 2005

On arrival at the ground (The Iqbal Stadium) we gained admission by walking through the main pavilion entrance unopposed which was heavily guarded but our skin colour gave us access without the slightest hesitation or security check. Once inside we headed for our fans through more security and we were pleased to see the England section was about 40 strong with the usual flags all around. The game was by now in the second session with Pakistan batting. My two road journey companions had sorted digs in advance, I hadn't, so at Tea I stood up and asked who had a spare bed to offer me. A bloke called West Ham Mike (who I have now had a beer with in many a cricket match arena) stood up and said he had a spare bed in his room but it would cost me 3 quid a night to share….sorted! Result.

Faisalabad is a strange sort of climate; the sun is trying to break through all the time but is beaten back by a huge haze of smog hanging in the air. The locals spend hours outside the ground trying to gain access to the ground queuing in single file while we walked virtually anywhere in the ground without so much as showing a ticket. Occasionally the police would wade into them with long sticks for not forming single file and beat them back. This only spurred the locals on more and they would return within minutes to be met with the same treatment. On occasions we stood at the back of our terrace looking outwards to watch this day long spectacle when Inzi was grinding our bowlers down to pass the time. We had a small segregated section at the back of a terrace to the left of the pavilion as you are looking at the pitch, segregated by armed men from the Elite Punjab Police Regiment. It's the first time I had seen machine guns protecting us whilst watching cricket, it made us all think that we actually were in danger. In front of our section was where the young local ladies were seated like us in segregation and they had women police officers making sure they didn't talk to any local men or mix with us too. The authorities have a strict public behaviour code on women in this area we surmised. During the game they flew airplanes over the human cordon to us with messages written on them about how they love us. Surreal…… We loved the attention though, it was like being at junior school but we are grown men! Mr. Cricket (the Pakistan version of Jimmy) was at the front most days orchestrating the girls into singing 'lovely lovely England'. We replied by singing 'lovely lovely Pakistan……….ladies' It lead to a good atmosphere for all involved. The local lads amused themselves during the breaks by having dance offs on the terraces, a bit like the breakdance sessions seen in the early 80's in English town centres but with crazy bright shirts and dancing akin to something out of The Office of Ricky Gervais fame.

I acclimatised overnight drinking vast amounts of tea and meeting up with 7 other lads who had all travelled alone. We decided to stick together here on in. The hotels where we had taken residence for the next few days had armed guards placed on the doors because of our presence. We sensed that we were indeed targets for some local nutters but brushed it aside due to high spirits. It didn't deter us and every night we ventured out to sample the local cuisine. Funnily enough everywhere England fans seemed to congregate in the evening (and there wasn't many of us) armed police would then appear to keep a watch over proceedings. We realised it was for our protection and they knew the area better than we did so fair play to them. The streets in the main area were laid out in the shape of the Union Flag/Jack with a clock tower right in the centre. I checked the maps to see if it was true and yep, it is that way. Who thought of that in days gone by?

We struck lucky at this time with a good lad from Leeds who was of Pakistani origin. He talked the lingo and only the educated spoke English in Faisalabad so he became the 9th solo traveller to join our merry mob. When ordering the food for us all sat around a big table he would say 'you will like this'. It was only after we had eaten that he would tell us it was sheeps brains or sheeps bollocks. Did he laugh….! Did we heave…! The fecker. I would love to get him back with a plate of tripe and vinegar while convincing him it was a hand made potato pancake rolled by Lancastrian virgins with their bare hands.

With Pakistan out for 462 (Inzi 109, Afridi92) our innings unfolded with England reaching 92-2 in the afternoon and while talking nonsense at the back between WH Mike, Tom and myself a huge explosion let rip at the front of the stand to the right of the pavillion. We just caught a glimpse of a man flying through the air and landing in a heap pitch side. From all around soldiers appeared brandishing a variety of machine guns and assault rifles. We feared the worst. My phone was deluged with texts from England asking what was happening as the live broadcast had been halted. Bell and Tresser in the middle tried to leave the pitch but were held in the middle for their own safety. It eventually came to light that an exploding soft drinks gas canister had caused a major security alert and soon after the cricket recommenced. A shook up Tresser was soon dispatched to the safety of the dressing room. We later found out that the man flying through the air was now deaf, permanently. Even with that he still was very lucky to be alive.

Our innings came to an end on 446 (Bell 115, KP 100, Jones 55)

One evening during the test we all decided to head for the England team hotel as by now we hadn't had a beer since leaving England and they served it in their hotel to guests but only to be consumed in their rooms. One of the lads had had a tip off that you could acquire an alcohol license so he went on a beer mission, a bit more than finding the local Offy after hours we thought but good luck mate! On arriving at the England team hotel I struck up a conversation with Andrew Flintoff being a fellow Lancastrian who had just appeared for his grub in the hotel restaurant. I explained our booze free predicament and asked him if he could get us a bottle of vodka sent to his room for us. He explained that it was best he didn't as we would take it off the premises and didn't want the wrath of the management. Fair point we thought but then thinking on his feet the big fella added that the Vodafone Rep over the other side of the restaurant would do it for us on his say so. He did…RESULT! Off we headed with our closely guarded vodka and back to the safety of our hotel where we could drink it….very carefully without wasting a drop. On our return the man out on a mission did acquire an alcohol license and had boxes of Pakistani beer in tow! Were we chuffed?! You bet your life we were! What a night, all 10 present get a good few beers and after shifting the beds to the side of the room we created an English pub with table in the middle and card school. Home from home. This occasion had taken many hours of mithering, begging, rickshaw rides, rumours and nonsense just to have a few beers. When it's like that just to have a beer f**k me do you appreciate it…and we did.

Back to the cricket.....

Second innings. Pakistan reached 268 for 9 before declaring. Inzi hit a ton again which included his 10,000th test run. This bloke is really hard to break down we thought, causing us a right headache he is. For the record, how could it be runs with Inzi? He doesn't know the meaning of the word 'run' so we declared them 'points' where he is concerned.

The mighty England second innings was more about survival and we ground out the draw reaching 164-6 with Freddie hitting 56.

Time for a change of venue……….Lahore here we come!


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