Looking out of the media centre window last night as thousands of Pakistani fans hooted, cheered, waved and weaved their way home, I was thrilled to have been part of such a huge, exciting and – at times – emotional event.
Trent Bridge served up one last shock on the final match day at the ground and it was clear from talking to journalists and fans that the win for Pakistan meant much more than just another cricket triumph. For all sorts of reasons, the team and their supporters, indeed the whole nation, needed something to cheer about and as they turned Trent Bridge into Karachi for the night, they made a joyous and raucous celebration.
But before the semi-finals day came one last shot at the Super 8s on Tuesday. We welcomed back New Zealand and Sir Lanka and then South Africa met India. So there were some new journos to meet and service and yet more photographers, reporters and kit to co-ordinate. Each game produced notable incidents and teams demonstrating how to defend (relatively) small totals within a 20/20 game. Sri Lanka’s innings was constructed rather than cudgelled with Jayawardene’s extraordinary deliberate use of the back of the bat the innovation of the day. He went down for the paddle and rather than the now conventional reverse sweep, chose to ‘late dab’ with the back of the blade! I’ve seen plenty of club cricketers play shots like that but seldom – if ever – was it deliberate.
He was, inevitably, asked about this in his press conference and tried to play down the switch as a moment of inspiration rather than a premeditated stroke. The Kiwis were undone in their run chase by the 3 Ms – Murali, Mendes and Malinga – and were out of the tournament.
India was already eliminated but they had hopes of giving favourites South Africa a reality check in the last game of the Eights. Again, though, it was a case of the chasing side not getting up to the target. By now the Trent Bridge wicket was taking spin and Botha and van de Merwe bowled well in tandem to restrict the Indian assault.
In the press boxes there were noticeably fewer Indian journalists up for this match than any of the previous games in Nottingham and I was told by one of the stalwarts that his colleagues had gone shopping! Sure enough, when they did arrive there were carrier bags galore as well as all the usual high-tech kit.
I found myself watching the end of the game in company with a group of Indian cricket writers and reporters. Odd, incidentally, to be watching on TV a game that was going on, out of sight, just yards away and anticipating the TV pictures on the basis of the crowd noises as the live action runs ahead of the TV relay by a split second or two.
A certain gallows humour took over the assembled Indian journos as it became increasingly obvious that they were not going to go out in blaze of glory. The Times of India had been running a ‘Bring Back the Cup’ campaign for the duration and the suggestions ran from re-naming it ‘Bring Back the Team’ to taking a souvenir paper cup from the press conference room … I will miss their unfailing good manners and enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm was all too evident when Pakistan made their first appearance at Trent Bridge since the warm-up games. They were a bit of a surprise entity in the semi-finals as they had (to put it kindly) started slowly but they were up against the juggernaut that was South Africa.
Mind you, they were ahead on crowd and reporter figures – outnumbering the Proteas supporters by a huge and very noisy margin.
For this match we had a full press box and demand for seats in the overflow box – and then some. I reckon that on each match day there had been upward of 100 press men and women and the semi had drawn even more.
Amazingly, the weather again relented to allow for a full day’s play. Nottingham has had a wet June but the gods seemed to have arranged for it to rain only on non-match days. In nine match days and 15 games at Nottingham we had lost just four overs; this is a tribute not just to the weather gods but also to the ground staff who had worked tirelessly to keep the playing area at its beautiful best.
The game was a thriller and probably the best of World T/20 thus far; most of the cricket was top quality but in amongst the highlights were some dodgy fielding on both sides – such as two South Africans diving over the same ball to allow it to run for a four and Umar Gul (later to redeem himself) fluffing a dolly catch so completely that he all but concussed himself as he fell headfirst backwards into the turf.
But in the end it was the batting of Kallis and Afridi and the slow bowling of Afridi (again), Botha and van de Merwe that kept the outcome in doubt for so long. Pakistan eventually took the match by a fairly comfortable seven runs and then the party really started.
Before we could enjoy the fans, we had two more press conferences to oversee. Graham Smith was gracious and professional in defeat, even treating kindly the brave reporter who used the dread word ‘chokers’ in his question. Afridi and his team mates were jubilant and relished the role of giant killers.
There had been no less than 30 press conferences (two for each game), all managed fairly smoothly by the combination of the ICC, Trent Bridge’s terrific media team and the willing volunteers. The squash courts survived being transformed into a press suite and the world’s press got the quotes, interviews and stories that they needed to beam around the world.
In the end, we saw every team in the competition with the exception of the Netherlands so we have had a mix of supporters and reporters to meet and greet.
As we tidied up the press box one last time, it was pleasing to have so many reporters tell us how much they had enjoyed their time at Trent Bridge, how impressed they were with Nottingham as a city and the facilities that had been on offer.
Being a volunteer at an event as busy, exciting as this with the eyes of perhaps as many as 100 million people on Trent Bridge has been tiring but exhilarating and I found new friends among the volunteers that have shared my various shifts.
There is, though, one last surprise chance to get together as the event organisers have generously invited the Trent Bridge volunteers to the finals day at Lords on Sunday. This will be a fantastic opportunity for many of us to see the ‘home of cricket’ and watch what should be a great day of close games (maybe an England victory for the women?) and there is talk of a volunteers’ ‘lap of honour’ on the hallowed turf.
So this is not the last volunteer blog – there will be one more next week. If Pakistan win on Sunday then I shall need to find new superlatives to describe their fans partying and celebrations (and probably a set of ear plugs too) …. can’t wait!