Howzat Travel Managing Director Ian Kerr has seen England play cricket all over the world. The recent tour to Bangladesh was one that he was really looking forward to and it didn't disappoint. As always, he kept a diary so that the tour group can recall the great times they had, and everyone else can read about what they got up to...
Friday 12th March 2010
Well, here we are, high up behind the bowler’s arm at the Zohur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium on the first day of Chittagong Test…
Travellers from Manchester and Birmingham have just spent a total 40 hours of travelling on the long road to Chittagong. Bad weather in Dubai, flight delays, missed connections and last-minute coaches from Dhaka to Chittagong have all played their part, but what’s important is that we are all here… in fact the Howzat party is up to 21 people, all seated in VIP section and enjoying the mornings play.
With little or no sleep and new time zones to contend with, the coach left the Agrabad hotel at 8.00am for the 9.30 am start. We were in the stadium in time to see Finn and Carberry presented with their debut caps, and also see Bangladesh win the toss and put England in – a strange and negative decision, but I guess it’s what we expected. Maybe it will stretch the game out for a longer period?
England start well with Cook and Carberry until just after drinks, then Carberry loses his wicket for 30 – LBW, from the bowling of Muhmudullah.
Trott then gets a bad decision out for 39, after replays prove the noise was clearly his helmet not the bat! At 149 – 2, England then make use of the slow flat track with KP and Cook making runs. England finish a great day on 374 -3, with cook 158 N.O. and KP 99 bowled by Razzak… topped the England scorecard..
So, off we went back to the hotel, safe in the knowledge that the beer delivery was waiting for us. After a few deserved beers around the pool and a local hotel meal, we were all in bed around 10pm looking forward to some much-needed sleep.
Around 5am, Chittagong seemed to be struck by a small earthquake. The question over breakfast was ‘Did the earth move for you last night?’ Most did get a good night sleep however!
Saturday 13th March
The second day of the Test. Because of the small amount of additional traffic, we had an 8.30am transfer to the ground and were all seated by the 9.30am for the start of play.
England started as they left off… Cook onwards on to 173 and Collingwood 145, seeing England onto 599 before the declaration an hour before tea…
The Bangladeshis didn’t make much a fight on the batting, finishing the day on 154 for 5; opener and Bangladeshi favourite Tamin the only significant scorer with 86, before being bowled by Bresnan.
The Howzat Travel ‘catch of the day’ went to Mick Spencer, who calmly caught sleepy Declan falling off his chair whilst dozing off…! A great catch… HOWZAT!
Back at the hotel, we all headed to the pool for the customary Hunter beer, before heading over to the Silver Spoon restaurant for the two-day late welcome meal. A fun evening was had by all, with three cases of beer pre arranged and seven courses of fine food and good company, it was a great way for the group to spend quality time with new friends.
At around 10pm, we headed back to the hotel. Some decided to stick in the hotel lobby watching the Chelsea game, whilst a few others headed to off for a Rum night (cap).
Sunday 14th March
After the late night, the breakfast tables seemed to be filling later than normal this morning. Surprisingly, Richard said he didn’t have a headache… maybe this Hunter beer is better than we first thought!
So, at 8.30am, nearly minus Anne Boleyn Lumb, we were off to the ground and soon in seats for the start of play.
The morning session however, didn’t go to plan with only two wickets falling. It actually took until 1.30pm for England managed to bowl out the locals. Tredwell’s (12th man) stunning catch and a fine Carberry run-out all helping to contribute.
England have just decided not to enforce the follow on, so Cook and Carberry head straight back out to the middle padded up. Cook starts well before getting out for 39, but England then decided to go all negative on us and at the close of play, they were on 131-5. This however, was much to Richard Fairhead’s delight, since the 131-5 close made him the daily Howzat sweepstake winner.
So, back off to the Agrabad we go, stopping for a compulsory pool-side beer before showering ready for evening. With wine being delivered before we head out, and a pre arranged visit to the infamous railway bar ahead, most of the group headed over to the CAD Avenue for a meal at Bonanza ,before eventually finding the Railway Bar. A couple of beers was plenty enough tonight, so for the final time, a Chittagong Tuc Tuc was in order…
Back at the hotel, the group were found hogging the TV watching the football. A fun, cultural and enlightening evening was had by all.
Monday 15th March
Again, an 8.30am departure saw the group away on time, and with everyone in good spirits, the conversation mainly revolved around the possibility of the game finishing later today.
Inside the ground, Prior lost his wicket early. Swann and Bell however, helped to move the game onto 209, some 512 runs ahead before declaring, 7 wickets down.
The Bangaldeshis came out in fighting spirit, closing the day on 191 for 5, with Zunaed and Mushfiqur on 68 and 47 respectively…
The closing score of 191 made today’s sweep a draw with Stewart and Margaret sharing the winnings.
Back at the hotel, the guys headed off in different ways. We later found out that Mr Perkins had a strange lift encounter at the Peninsula (!) whilst the majority stayed local for a gut-bursting buffet at the Ambrosia.
Tuesday 16th March
With Declan departing to the airport early doors, the coach was minus one for the finals day play. Today’s sweepstake was simply ‘What time would the game finish?’ With times ranging from Patch’s 10.59am to Richard’s 16.30pm, it was anyone’s guess what would happen…
The morning session didn’t bring any wickets, so Ishmil Islam’s delirious mood kept us all entertained. His comment regarding Bangladeshi people ‘seeing larger people as wealthy people’, saw Richard comment “Well what does that make me… a beggar?!”
Anyway, Margaret accepting a stick of ‘lucky’ chewing gum from Dave did the trick, as the wicket fell the next ball…
England then proceeded to wrap up the following wickets finishing the game at 13.24pm exactly, meaning that Richard Fairhead cleaned up on the sweepstake for the second time in three days…!
Swanny took the deserved ‘man of the match’, being the first off-spinner since 1956 to take 10 wickets in a test…
Back at the hotel, we made once final phone call for a beer delivery and the pool seemed the ideal place for an easy afternoon…
A quick shower and we were back over to Ambrosia – our new and favourite Chittagong restaurant. With steaks, curries, Chinese cuisine and a very different music policy all on offer, everyone had a fun evening.
We settled our hotel bills ready for tomorrow’s 9.00am departure to Cox’s Bazar.
With a final few Hunter beers and yet another IPL game, the group sat collectively around the big screen enjoying the final night at the hotel.
Wednesday 17th March
A 7.30am alarm call saw me up in plenty of time, packed, fed with a decent breakfast and ready to go by 9.00am.
My final memory of the Agrabad – and what really amused me before leaving – was our room cleaner; she almost ran the whole length of the corridor to help me pack the last few belongings into the case, knowing I was to be off shortly and was after a good tip!
Anyway, our coach departed for Cox’s Bazar on time, and after just a few minutes, we were out into the beautiful Bangladeshi countryside. Here, we passed many local villages and caught a glimpse of the local farmers and saw first-hand how communities live in this part of the world.
After a few hours, we stopped en-route for a toilet stop. The guys were somewhat amazed at the squatting position taken by the local men using the urinals; Amusing, if nothing else…
At around 1.30pm, we arrived at the Seagull Hotel and everyone got checked in OK. Some of the more cultural Howzat Travellers headed off to Ramu with Islam, to see some of the best temples that Bangladesh has to offer. The others firstly took the opportunity to quench their thirst in Patch’s room with yet another Hunters. Even the bellboy was happy fetching ice for the ice box in return for a cold beer – not very Muslim me thinks!
So, after a cold beer and refreshments, the (and I quote) ‘best swimming pool in Bangladesh’ must be worth a look. Initially, we were told that there was a charge for swimming, but such matters were soon cleared up and most of the group enjoyed the final few hours of sun around the pool deck.
At around 6.00pm, we all headed off to the guidebook-recommended Mermaid Café, some 300 yards along the sea front. Here, we were treated to easily the best dining experience of the trip so far. With Bob Marley music playing in the background and lanterns of all colours and designs in every corner, it was hard not to enjoy the experience. It seemed to epitomise what so far has been a fantastic trip!
By 10.00pm, most of the group were back at the hotel, in bed, ready for sleep. Today had sure been a busy one…
Thursday 18th March
Most of the group were up and about by 8.00am, ready for breakfast Bangladeshi style. The busy breakfast room and rush for food was some experience! It was soon becoming apparent the self-named 5* Deluxe Seagull Hotel doesn’t see many Western guests. In all seriousness, it didn’t really matter; it was just keeping us highly amused.
At 9.00am, most of the party headed off in open air Jeeps for an exhilarating ride along the World’s longest natural beach to Inani Beach. Along the way, we had plenty of photo stops, some of which were simply stunning.
At Inani and past the hoards of Bangladeshi tourists, we wandered off to the sea’s edge. For most of the Howzat Travellers, a quick paddle in the Bay of Bengal was in order. We also took a few moments to watch the locals as their faces grinned from ear-to-ear. Paddling in the sea was probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some of these people.
After a refreshing Pepsi at the local restaurant, we were back off to Cox’s Bazar, stopping en-route at the Eco-Mermaid resort for some gift shopping and also picking up a replacement for my lost cap that blew off in the wind! It’s a shame the glasses were not so lucky.
Back at the hotel and after a cooling off beer, the pool was the ideal stop for a lazy afternoon swimming and enjoying the blistering afternoon sun.
Margaret and Geoff had sussed out the Apple Pie in the foyer, and with rave reviews it was surprisingly all gone before we knew it…!
An early rendezvous had been arranged for this evening, mainly so we could enjoy the surprisingly-good sunset, before returning to the Mermaid for the second time in two nights, this time armed with BYO beer and rum!
After dinner, we collectively returned for a final few night caps in Patch’s Bar before calling it a night…
Friday 19th March
Today was our final morning at the Bangladeshi seaside resort Cox’s Bazar. We have been hearing the locals call this place the ‘World’s Eighth Wonder’. I’m not sure about that but maybe in 20 years some of the group will be able to say “I went to Cox’s Bazar before it become commercial”, in much they same way Koh Samui, Goa and Bali are referred too nowadays.
Anyways, the final morning saw the group up and enjoying the swimming pool before the 12 noon check out and 12.45pm departure to the airport.
Upon arrival at the airport gates, the security staff didn’t know what to make of the coach. “We don’t normally see coaches” one member of staff remarked”. We had effectively charted the United Propeller Jet flight to Dhaka and by 2.40pm were on board for the one-hour flight to our final destination. On the ground we said our goodbyes to Geoff since he was returning back to the UK.
At the Pan Pacific Hotel in Dhaka, the Howzat Travellers were soon checked in and pleasantly surprised by this 5* hotel – best in Bangladesh. It also helps that we had upgraded rooms and most of our guests were conveniently located next door to members of the England Squad on the newly-renovated floor… I am next door to KP!
As with all 5* hotels, things cost slightly more… the beer kitty had long since gone so guests resorted to the £9 can of Fosters instead…!
After an all-inclusive Italian buffet, most of the group were soon ready for bed. With all the travelling it had been a long day…
Saturday 20th March
The first morning of the second Test match in the two-match series saw each Howzat Traveller up at the crack of dawn, enjoying breakfast alongside famous faces aplenty.
Being the first morning of the Test, it made sense for us to leave a little earlier to make sure everything ran smoothly. We arrived at 8.20am for the 9.30am start, so had to wait for the security to open the gates before we could get into the stadium. Once in, we spent a few minutes getting to grips with the arrangements and it was obvious that our VIP Tickets gave us the choice of the seats in the ground, from which to enjoy the next five days play….
The locals won the toss and elected to bat. Tamim seemed to be thinking this was a one-day game and batted superbly for his 85 from just 73 balls, giving Bangladesh the most fantastic start.
With England continuing to take wickets, resident alcohol treasurer Richard C had compiled the latest inventory of requirements. When we presented to the local guys, it was soon apparent that 26 bottles of wine and 15 cases of beer would be more of a problem than we first thought, so Keith and I – with Islam, plus a driver courtesy of ‘Nimbus’ TV crew – headed off to get passports form the hotel, then onto the foreign duty free shop to purchase our goods. We even treated ourselves (and Islam) to a sneaky warm one on the way back to the cricket.
The day finished on 330-8, with the sweepstake drawn by Richard F (now three-time winner) and a deserving Bob.
Back at the hotel, drinking was on the agenda. With football, room service, a bottle of red and some good company, it was just what we needed.
Sunday 21st March
Headaches were aplenty around the breakfast table – a few too many red wines were obviously the problem from the previous night’s drinking.
The coach left for the ground minus a certain passport hunter and I, who went off to the High Commission in search of a replacement.
Over at the Sher-e-Bangla Nation Cricket Stadium, England made hard work off the last two wickets with Bangladesh adding over 100 runs. England’s reply was then not as hoped, with the day finishing on 171-3, giving the home team the advantage.
The winner of the sweep today had been Mr Nichols, although even he was some 100 runs off the score on the board at the end of the day.
Today had been blooming hot, reaching 38 degrees! It was obvious that England were struggling with the heat too…
Back at the hotel, I took the opportunity to visit the biggest shopping centre in Bangladesh, although the it was soon apparent that the sizes of shirts and t-shirts were geared towards a far-smaller local population and not beer bellies from the west!
With many tired and sleepy heads, an early night was in order for most of the group tonight.
Monday 22nd March
An early start for Sanjaya saw him up very early and off the airport for yet another jet-setting experience, initially over to Colombo and then on to Zurich for a series of meetings.
Today is day three of the Dhaka test, and with yesterday’s sweepstake winner Richard making today’s stake, we can all blame him for Trott’s 11 balls before he was out, since the sweep was simply ‘how many balls would Trott face today?’ Margaret, now two-time winner, correctly guessed 11.
The remaining part of the day continued in the same negative spirit and the game meandered along to 440-8. Bell was England’s main highlight scoring an impressive 138 to save England’s blushes. I believe this is the first time Bell has scored an England 100 without someone in the same innings doing so before him. After the Cape Town knock, he seems to have found a new confidence. Maybe batting down the order suits him better.
Anyway, back to the hotel, complete with a replenishment of wine. After a relatively quick turn around, the bar was open – tonight in my room – where after a few cold ones, we made our way down to the Italian restaurant armed with BYO red wine. Yet again a nice evening with good company…
Tuesday 23rd March
Today was the penultimate day of the tour and Doctor Islam seemed to having a busy morning with the prescription list – news was spreading amongst the party about the magic blockage tablets that had actually worked! Bearing in mind that the guide books suggest 50% of travellers get ill at somepoint, we were having a good tour with only a few minor casualties.
Richard had also received the good news today from the embassy that his new passport was ready for collection.
A good news day? It was starting to look that way!
So, off we went to the cricket in an optimistic mood. The sweepstake today was for the score on the board at the end of the day.
The two England wickets fell, Bresnan just nine short of his maiden 100 with England being stumped by Rahim whilst trying to hot him for six. With all three results still possible, the Bangladeshis went out for the second innings in a positive frame of mind, but with England taking wickets at regular intervals, the home side were left struggling on 172-6 at the close.
Back at the hotel, Rod caught a word with a few members of the squad. The good news was the ball was turning and reversing, and the pitch had developed some uneven bounce.
Anyway, as tonight was the penultimate night on tour, we had organised a coach to depart the hotel at 7.30pm for a farewell meal at a Mexican restaurant we had visited previously on the inspection tour. A special visit to the duty free store had been made during the day, and evening – spent consuming said alcohol – was a lively affair. A perfect opportunity to have one last group meal with friends old and new…
The night finished with Wahid’s three questions. From what I remember, the answers were ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘Yes’. (Don’t ask!)
At around 10.40pm, we made our drunken way back to the hotel, quite excited about the prospect of the fifth and final days play..
Wednesday 24th March
As a group, we have come a long way, and being the last day of cricket, it seemed fitting that anything was possible. However, most of the group were optimistic that England would clear up the final four Bangladeshi wickets and cruise to victory…
Shakib Al Hassan – birthday boy and Bangladesh captain – had other ideas, making an extremely impressive 96, before stupidly going for the big swing to make his 100. Prior duly stumped him out, leaving England 56 overs to chase down the 209 required to clinch the series 2-0.
Cook batted superbly, and although Trott was reported to have been unlucky, KP was getting into 2020 form and put together a decent knock of 74. England hit the target from just 44 overs and Cook finished off with 109. The tour had finished perfectly.
The whole group sat in prime position for the series and game presentation, and smiles were aplenty when the Barmy Army chanted ‘ Boring, Boring Bob, Boring Bob Willis’ after his outspoken comments regarding some fans apparently ‘not being true fans’ as they were sat in certain positions around the ground!
Back at the hotel, the room bar had immediately opened at Bar Patch and the night continued until late… albeit until we realised that we needed to be up early to catch the coaches to the airport.
Thursday 25th March
A 6.00am alarm call saw me up, showered and dressed ready for the 6.45am coach over to Zia International Airport. It seemed that the whole of England Cricket had booked Emirates flights home and at Dubai, the Manchester and Birmingham connections said their goodbyes and the rest made their way down to London.
The tour had been a great one; Bangladesh is not an easy place to travel to, but with careful planning and hard work before and during the tour, everything went perfectly. I keep reminding our travellers that it is them who make these tours special, and I feel very privileged to have met so many great characters over the years!
Thanks again and I will look forward to everyone back on a Howzat Travel tour at some point in the future.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the diary!