One of the biggest security operations in English sports history will be mounted today at a practice match. The extensive bag and body searches for the game between India and Pakistan at The Oval, a warm up for the World Twenty20 that is certain to cause long queues, will provide the clearest evidence yet of how the cricket world has changed forever.
No chances whatever will be taken – and none can be – following the attack on the Sri Lanka team's bus in Lahore two months ago as they were travelling to play the third day of a Test against Pakistan. Six policemen were killed and seven players were injured in the firing.
"There is obviously a heightened level of security and a need to ensure safety after what happened in Pakistan," said Steve Elworthy, the tournament director. "It is a sell-out game and the first T20 between the sides since the World Twenty20 final in South Africa. It is natural for there to be huge attention."
The match, starting at 5.30pm, is a sell-out and spectators are urged to arrive at least two hours before the start to avoid delays. Although there is no reason to believe there is a terrorist threat, cricket and cricketers had always been thought to be eminently safe – until two months ago, that is.
"At all our sell-out matches in the competition security will be a very high priority," said Elworthy. "We hope spectators understand but are requesting them to arrive well in advance because if you miss 45 minutes of a Twenty20 you have missed the match."
At Birmingham last week, for a one-day international between England and West Indies that was far from sold out, some supporters were kept waiting for 90 minutes before gaining entry to the ground. While cricket spectators have become accustomed to bag and body searches in the past five years the World Twenty20 will take security to a new level.
ICC events have traditionally been accompanied by difficulty in gaining entry to the ground. In the past, this has largely been because of the determination to prevent any infringement of sponsors' expensively bought rights – such as taking in a can of Coca Cola when Pepsi is one of the official sponsors. There are now many more important issues to address and no matter who is taking part cricket fans in England will have to tolerate them forever.
At Trent Bridge yesterday, Sri Lanka came close to suffering a surprise defeat in their opening warm-up match for the World Twenty20 before securing a four-wicket victory over Bangladesh.
Chasing Bangladesh's 151 for 6, Sri Lanka raced to 112 for 3 in 13 overs but their innings lost all momentum between the 13th and 17th overs, when they added only five runs and lost two wickets, and it needed a wide with two balls remaining of the final over to clinch their triumph.
Having rested two of the key members of their line-up – Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga – Sri Lanka still dominated Bangladesh throughout their innings despite using eight different bowlers. It took a determined 70-run partnership off 55 balls between Mushfiqur Rahim and Raqibul Hasan to ensure Bangladesh even reached a respectable total.
Uncapped seamer Isuru Udana had earlier claimed theimportant wickets of the Bangladesh captain, Mohammad Ashraful, and Mahmud Ullah, both smartly caught behind by Sri Lanka captain Kumuar Sangakkara, in the space of three balls.
But Rahim and Raqibul propelled their side to a healthy score, only for Sri Lanka's powerful top order to lay the platform for what appeared a comfortable triumph. The loss of four wickets in five overs stalled their progress, however, with left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan taking two for 18 in his four overs.
Jehan Mubarak restored Sri Lanka's momentum by hitting successive fours in the 18th over of the innings from Mashrafe Mortaza before falling to the next delivery, leaving Chamara Silva and Angelo Mathews to scrape home.