Lousy (in) Lahore

Trip Start Nov 17, 2005
Trip End Dec 04, 2005

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Saturday, December 3, 2005

In two weeks in Pakistan I've managed not to come across any terrorists, not to get caught up in an earthquake, and - perhaps more importantly - not to get adopted by Angelina Jolie (although I think that would be fun for about a week). I did, however, see one of the most gutless England performances in years - since the one I witnessed in Sri Lanka two years ago, in fact.

Over the five days the Lahore crowd were just as boisterous although the police have been much less stick-happy. This made for far fewer beatings to keep us entertained during the lunch and tea intervals as they did in F------bad. As in the previous Tests Uncle Cricket was in attendence, wearing his green shalwar kameez, waving his Pakistani flag and generally whipping up the local crowd and hamming it up for the cameras. He was noticebly put out by the arrival of many more England fans in Lahore (especially the St George's Cross waving Jimmy Saville lookey-likey) which threatened to steal his limelight. When the cameras were off him the smile would vanish and he would literally push kids over that wanted to sing and dance with him. Make no mistake: Uncle Cricket is a bastard.

95% of the crowd were local schoolboys who were given free tickets by the PCB (although this time they had the audacity to charge me 4 for a five-day pass). The Gadaffi Stadium - named for the Libyan leader who paid for its refurbishment probably in exchange for a cut of the local gun-running or drug trade - is much bigger than the Iqbal Stadium in F------bad but it was just as difficult to keep your four seats. That's right, four: one to sit on, one either side and one in front to put your feet on. To give these up for the locals would mean two people on each of the seats bombarding you with questions and generally making life hell. They had more interest in watching us than the cricket and I soon tired of making up answers to their questions (in the end I settled on Klingon for my religion and porn star as a job). When they weren't annoying us they would be singing 'Boom Boom Afridi!' even though he wasn't playing as he had been banned for cheating in the game down in F------bad. For some reason, this didn't seem to register with them.

After England's capitulation we waited around for about half an hour so that the crowds could disperse. Then it was down to the International Club for a few beers to drown our sorrows. It was pandemonium in there - especially when Peter Crouch scored for Liverpool - as I don't think it's ever been that busy and the staff were severely overwhelmed. Then five of us endured a tuk-tuk ride from hell to Pizza Hut's salad bar where my misery was compounded by Arsenal losing to Bolton (we did think about visiting Food Street again, but after three visits I've concluded that it's just a one-way toll-road to Squirtville).

Apart from the 11-18 year old boys (who in my opinion would all benefit from a few more police beatings) the Pakistanis were generous and welcoming. My eyes, ears and lungs certainly won't miss the appalling pollution and as soon as I get on the plane home I'm going to pull down the oxygen mask and treat myself to some clean air. There's so much dust in my clothes that I'm fearful I'll clog the machine with mud when I wash them. If - and that's a mighty big if - I do come back to Pakistan I think I'll avoid the cities and head north to the Himalayas with my newly adoptive mother for the clean air.

After two overseas tours I've seen two lame draws and two heavy defeats. Maybe I'm bad luck and shouldn't go watch them again. However, they go to India in March where I've heard the food is much better...


Here's the scorecard from the game.
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