An England cricket fan who waited in Sri Lanka for nearly a year to watch the team play has finally seen some cricket as the first Test belatedly got under way.
Rob Lewis, a web designer from Sunbury-on-Thames, first flew out to Sri Lanka on March 13 last year – and found out while he was on the plane that England’s tour had been called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But he stayed in the country instead of flying back to the UK, vowing to remain until England returned, and was finally rewarded on Wednesday as he saw part of the first day’s play unfold from the fort overlooking the stadium in Galle.
Mr Lewis, 37, told the PA news agency: “It was good – it’s always been far in the distance, being that dream that’s far away.
“It’s a little bit weird that it’s on now. It’s cool.”
It was not quite the experience he had been hoping for as Covid restrictions meant no fans were allowed into the ground.
And although he was able to get on to the fort, where many fans gather to watch the cricket in normal circumstances, he and a friend were shooed away by police after watching only the first few balls of the game.
Mr Lewis said: “Right before the start of play they were like, ‘you can’t watch it from here’.
“We were like, ‘what? You can’t do that to us!’. It was a bit annoying.”
Three big banners the pair put up on the fort, including one for street dog charity WECare with whom Mr Lewis is running a fundraising campaign, were also removed.
Police did at least allow him to watch the first few deliveries and to deliver a hearty rendition of England cricket anthem Jerusalem before he retreated to a local cafe to watch more of the game.
He said: “It was into the wind and from the fort, which is 50 yards back from the ground, so I was trying to project my voice as best I could, but it didn’t sound great.”
The devoted fan has been on a personal adventure during his unplanned stay in Sri Lanka, adopting a stray dog while living on a beach, becoming a DJ with his own alter ego – DJ Randy Caddick, named after former England bowler Andy Caddick – and befriending members of the Sri Lanka cricket team’s coaching staff.
His story has made it as far as the England team, with captain Joe Root saying he was keen to set up a Zoom call with him to “give him something to smile about”.
Mr Lewis later snuck back up to the fort’s ramparts wearing a hi-vis vest and a hard hat “to look like one of the workers up there” but was again stopped by police.
He said: “They were like, ‘why are you wearing that?’, and I was like, ‘well, I’m on a work site, safety first’.
“They all started laughing and they said, ‘you really want to watch the cricket don’t you?’.
“I said ‘yes’ so they said, ‘we’ll give you half an hour’.”
He ended up staying for the whole of the evening session.
“It was nice to end the day watching some cricket, chilling out, rather than stressing out and running around,” Mr Lewis said.
Overall he said the day was “stressful” with “a few ups and lots of downs”.
But he added: “I had the magical moment of singing Jerusalem for the fort – that moment was worth the whole day.”
Mr Lewis is expecting a similar story for the rest of the match as he attempts to see as much play as he can, but he remains optimistic of something better.
“I’m going to speak to a couple of people,” he said. “I haven’t given up hope yet.
“God loves a trier.”
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