In the Bear Pit: England vs. Pakistan at Edgbaston

Posted by Stuart George in Cricket | Leave a comment

I spent Sunday (8 August) at Edgbaston watching England play Pakistan in the second Test.

It wasn’t a good day to be a ticket tout. Even with the large Pakistani diaspora in the West Midlands and the fine weather, it was a poor crowd. Green hats tended to be worn by Worcestershire supporters rather than Pakistanis. Doubtless the £60 entrance fee deterred many people from attending.

As I arrived one of the gate men was directing somebody to “where the npower girls get changed.” I asked him if he could please repeat the directions but he offered only a smile. At any rate, the Pedigree – that’s a beer, not a dog food – “maidens” have got the edge on the hitherto revered npower girls, who now wear red skinny jeans rather than 10-inch skirts. No more fine legs, alas.

The new Pavilion currently being constructed made Edgbaston look like one of those unknown Chinese cities being turned into a metropolis. Now that the old, ugly Pavilion has gone, the 100-metre Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower at Birmingham University can be seen from the east side of the ground, looking west.

In truth, Edgbaston needs a good deal more renovation to make it a worthy venue for international cricket. My seat in the Stanley Barnes stand wobbled like a drunken Birmingham City supporter. The frames were rusty and occasionally decorated by a weed.

Edgbaston is a suntrap. All the current stands are bathed in sunshine (or rain) for at least a few hours each day. It needs more covered seating.

Knowing that England would surely win this Test, the largely English crowd was generous towards the opposition, wanting to see some good cricket by Pakistan.

The biggest cheer of the day was when Graham Swann began his marathon spell at the City End. The Warwickshire bowler Calum MacLeod, on for Steve Finn, also got a big cheer from the home supporters. Kevin Pietersen also got a big hurrah when he came on to bowl at 3.35pm. We love him really, don’t we? It’s just that we don’t like to show it.

A Swann delivery to Haider just before lunch impressed the Brummies when it spun viciously after the batsman had pushed it away with a forward defensive: “See the spin on that?”

Sponsors of English cricket see Test matches as an opportunity for the hard sell. During the lunch interval I was ambushed by an enthusiastic npower salesman asking about my utility bills. He was bemused when I told him that I was here to watch cricket, not to discuss my electricity bill.

Alec Stewart was a big hit at the lunchtime “Fan Hub”, even though he was booed when he admitted to being a Chelsea supporter. He was amusing, opinionated and obdurate in the best sense. He is an impressive man, very articulate and always immaculately dressed.

Mike Gatting, who was signing autographs during the tea interval, does not have the same cachet as Stewart. A young man who had been directed by his father to get Gatt’s autograph returned to ask who he was. The last England captain to win The Ashes in Australia in 1986, he was told in reverential tones. “1986? That’s really old…”

The pace of the game slowed in the afternoon. There were few wickets, at any rate, and the crowd started to look as bored as the flying ants that engulfed Birmingham this afternoon. A lady in the Eric Hollies Stand looked as though she was knitting but in fact she was unravelling the cord of her headphones. As the beer started to take a hold, the Barmy Army – all ten of them – got going at 2pm.

A streaker ran from one side of the ground to the other at 6.39. After he was finally captured there was a gentle reminder over the tannoy of the ground regulations – no streaking allowed!

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