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World Cup feature: England lose but Pakistan fans win the day

PUBLISHED: 10:07 08 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:07 08 June 2019

Trent Bridge where England played Pakistan. Picture: Sam Cooper

Trent Bridge where England played Pakistan. Picture: Sam Cooper

Archant

As England prepare to play Bangladesh in their next World Cup match, Archant reporter Sam Cooper reflects on seeing their previous match

The Pakistan fans form a conga line at Trent Bridge. Picture: Sam CooperThe Pakistan fans form a conga line at Trent Bridge. Picture: Sam Cooper

Inside a packed Trent Bridge, I was one of few England fans in a sea of green as Pakistan came out on top in a high-scoring World Cup contest.

Having woken up at 5am to make the 214-mile journey from my house in Exeter, Devon to Nottingham, you could forgive me for being a little bleary-eyed on my way to the ground.

Walking through a city packed with grand sporting venues - the City Ground and Meadow Lane are within walking distance of Trent Bridge, with the former just a stone's throw distance - Nottingham had been taken over by the purple and blue banners of the ICC. The World Cup was in town.

On approach to the ground, the colour of the flags being waved quickly turned from purple to green and white and any tiredness that had been left over from the early start disappeared with it.

Despite this game being in a ground that has most recently produced England quick bowler Stuart Broad on its conveyor belt of homegrown talent, this was, for one day only, a neutral ground for England.

The chance to see their country in their city had not been passed up by the Pakistanis who make up 5.5 per cent of Nottingham's population.

Walking into the William Clarke Stand transported you to what might as well have been a ground in Islamabad.

As Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman proceeded to knock seemingly every ball to the boundary, the atmosphere grew with the run rate.

The fans, dressed head to toe in green, rose from their seat with every hook shot and celebrated as if they had just won the tournament itself.

And they had every right to, just three days earlier they had seen their team thumped by the West Indies and here they were dominating the hosts and favourites.

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Pakistan's blistering start did slow and the crowd's volume reduced with it but during one of these quieter moments, a conga line of green fans could be seen approaching from the distance.

At the front stood a tall man with a white beard, wearing a full green shalwar kameez dress and armed with a Pakistan flag. He was being followed by fans desperate to get a photo.

We asked some fans around us who this Pied Piper-type figure was and were informed he was known as Chacha Cricket. A Pakistan fan who had followed the team across the world and developed an almost God-like reputation among the green and white supporters.

He had arrived to whip the crowd back into shape. "Pakistan!" he shouted. "Zindabad", the crowd joyfully replied. The phrase means 'victory to Pakistan' and was customary every time someone shouted Pakistan, a theme common throughout the day.

By the end of Pakistan's innings, the crowd was not-so-quietly confident this was in the bag. A record run chase required but there will still some nerves, most notably in the shape of Joe Root and Jos Buttler.

Even with the dismissal of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, they were not quite sure they had secured their first ODI win in 13 games.

England fans, though, had found their voice. With the performances of Root and Buttler, chants of 'you're not singing anymore' rang around Trent Bridge.

The man sat next to us was facing the nerve-wrecking double combo of hoping he was witnessing his side win, but also wary of the 6.45pm train he had booked from Nottingham station.

However, the victory party truly ignited when Root was dismissed. Fellow centurion Buttler followed not long after him and by then an increasingly large crowd had gathered at the boundary's edge.

The stewards quickly turned into human poles to hold the barriers up as the fans scrambled to the front, desperate to get as close before beginning their songs.

England's tail limplessly tried but it was not to be as Pakistan won by 14 runs to cap a remarkable game and by far the best of the tournament so far.

For those more familiar with the footballing world, this could seem like an alien concept. Rival fans sat side-by-side and there is not even the faintest hint of trouble.

The England fans could not even begrudge the drivers who drove out of the stadium honking their horns and waving Pakistan flags. The victory had been deserved, both by the players and the fans.

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