An England cricket fan who waited 10 months in Sri Lanka to watch his team play was yesterday ushered away by police before a ball had been bowled in the first Test.
Rob Lewis, who flew out in March last year before the original tour was canceled over the COVID-19 pandemic, and decided to stay until England returned, said he was “very frustrated” by the turn of events.
Lewis was ordered off the historic ramparts of Galle Fort, a vantage point which overlooks the city’s cricket ground, just after the national anthems. No spectators are allowed inside the stadium.
“I am very frustrated. I waited 10 months to watch this match and the police have kicked me out,” Lewis said.
“At least I managed to sing Jerusalem,” he added.
During his stay in Sri Lanka, Lewis worked remotely as a Web designer and had stints as a nightclub DJ.
He visited Galle Fort on Saturday last week to map out his fallback as it became clear that no spectators would be allowed at the ground.
Lewis said he was warned in advance that he would only have restricted access to the ramparts. Three banners that he put up were also removed.
“I am going to see the police” chief, he said. “All I want to do is watch the match.”
“They gave me half-an-hour to put up three banners and go. That’s all,” Lewis added. “There will be another nine days of play and I hope I will be able to get permission to go up there again.”
Sri Lankan police banned all visitors from the 16th-century ramparts, a favorite venue for locals who want to avoid paying for tickets, officially for security reasons.
A few journalists were allowed to cover the match from the fort.
Fans and media were barred from the stadium because of COVID-19.
Sri Lankan journalist Rex Clementine scaled the ramparts to keep up his record of covering every Test in Sri Lanka since 2000.
“I want to maintain my record, even if they don’t allow reporters to the grounds,” he said.
Soldiers and security personnel in hazmat suits were posted around the stadium and checked the few people allowed in.
Meanwhile, England paceman Stuart Broad led an inspirational bowling attack to rattle Sri Lanka’s top order after the hosts elected to bat in the opening Test.
The hosts suffered an early jolt when skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was ruled out of the first of the two Tests in Galle with a fractured thumb and Dinesh Chandimal took charge.
Angelo Mathews, on 17, and stand-in-captain Chandimal, on 22, put on an unbroken 40 after early wickets to steer Sri Lanka to 65-3 at lunch.
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