Adrian Phillips is PR-man working for a sponsor at the World Cup. He’s got nine flights in 14 days as he pursues the tournament round India, Sri Lanka and, first, Bangladesh …
First trip to the sub-continent and first trip to see England in a World Cup: I’m working in a sport that is my life – can’t wait.
Bad turbulence on flight, jugs of coffee roll down the aisle and a woman runs out the toilets shouting – the captain makes a quick announcement telling everyone to strap in tight. As I look to my left, a stern Polish man simply looks back and nods.
Arrival into Chittagong via Dhaka is more simple – a tiny plane with just 11 people touches down at lunchtime the Wednesday before England’s game. A taxi takes me to my hotel, the hotel has only been open a day. Greeted in reception with flowers, a local drink and salutes from all the army security guards lining the front doors.
As I enter my VIP room, I had to un-wrap most of the contents, I meet my neighbour (the Daily Telegraph’s correspondent) who says that as cricket tours go I had been “dropped in at the deep end”.
Head outside for the first time and cross a hectic four-way junction of tuk-tuks, cars, lorries, bikes, people, cows and buses to make it to a hotel where I have a meeting.
Try to head to the cricket stadium for more meetings. With the traffic situation, the receptionist tells me she’s cancelled my booking as she felt it would take a driver too long to get to the ground. Instead she asks the bell-boy to hail me a cab. I jump in the tuk-tuk and via one-way systems the wrong way, being hit with sticks and beeped at for 15 minutes, we reached the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium.
At the stadium I follow in the England team bus with six police cars surrounding it and machine guns aplenty. I bob in through the main gate in my green tuk tuk.
Inspect the stadium, chat to Luke Wright on the outfield in glorious weather and the place starts to sink in. The opportunity for this city to host their first World Cup match is taken with great pride. Everything is painted in Bangladesh colours with the familiar symbol of the powerful tiger.
In a tuk tuk back to the hotel and 25 local children surround me. OK, they are really waiting for the Bangladesh team bus but I prove a distraction. They start practising their English asking how I am and one young lad says “I love you”.
Match day. The excitement and tension builds. As I arrive early at the stadium, the finishing touches are being made. Colourful banners are put up to line the stands and freshly bedded flowers line the road to the stadium. There are few England fans but I spot Nasser Hussain and Ian Botham, which reminds me of those watching back home.
The toss. My first glimpse of the noise and home support as Bangladesh win and bowl.
Bangladesh’s spin attack makes the English top order look naïve but England make a laboured 225 then wickets from Shazhad and Swann put the game beyond Bangladesh – in theory.
Many local supporters start to leave and I decide to join; it could take time to escape, I’ll see the end of the game at the hotel. Thousands line the streets outside the ground as we weave in and out the crowds, groups of 50 to 100 people watch the game through the windows of electronics shops, cheering wildly each run scored. I sense something is happening.
Then comes the winning run … I look out my hotel window and hear everybody leaving their houses and shops to run up-and-down the street shouting, waving and cheering. Cars drive down the street, hooting horns and firing shots from guns into the air. It is worth the pain and frustration of seeing England lose again, just to see these celebrations.
Attempt to sleep but the celebrations continue and chants of “Bangladesh, Bangladesh” go well into the early hours. I am just thrilled to be part of it.
Adrian Phillips is working for MoneyGram, who are the Official Money Transfer Partner of the ICC CWC 2011. Adrian plays his club cricket for Takeley CC, in the Herts and Essex League