'Don't worry about the lines - you say you're Sri Lankan'

Pakistan fans chanted "Sri Lanka! Sri Lanka!" at Rawalpindi Muhammad Reza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Mohammad Abbas broke a Pakistan Test drought that had lasted 10 years, nine months and nine days when he shuffled in to bowl at 9.45am, but for me the wait was slightly longer.

The plan had been to be parked behind press box glass, ideally with a coffee at arm's reach, to witness the historic occasion. But a domestic flight cancellation the previous day meant I'd had to spend Test-match eve in Karachi. While there, I'd also been ripped off by a taxi driver and charged 100 rupees by a "porter" who hadn't carried any bags. This may sound like a bad start, but actually it was perfect. You haven't arrived in a new country until you've been fleeced there. Those formalities out of the way in Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi (sister cities that sit on each other's laps) were wide open for charm.

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The offensive had in fact begun before I'd even landed in Islamabad. On the early-morning flight, a businessman spotted my Sri Lankan passport, guessed I was here for the cricket, and launched into a pair of treatises. The first was on Kumar Sangakkara, the "best left-hander this century, without a doubt". (Take that, Brian Lara.) The second was on the majesty of Pakistan's Himalayas which "will make you forget all about mountains you've seen anywhere else". (Take that, Nepal.)

On the cab ride from airport to ground, more joy at my nationality, and then this, from the driver: "Roads in Islamabad good. Roads in Pindiā€¦ I am very sorry." I'd learn later in the day, that the readiness with which serene, carpeted Islamabad streets give out to bustling, potholed lanes the moment you enter the Rawalpindi city limits is a something of a sore point for Pindi locals. Not helping the congestion today was the security roadblock cordoning off several major streets in the stadium's vicinity, and the hundreds-strong queues of fans, waiting to be cleared for entry. "Don't worry about the lines," the driver offered when his cab had taken me as close to the stadium as the cordon would allow. "You say you're Sri Lankan."

Who knew this advice would work so beautifully? I approached the front of the first queue, holding out my media accreditation in the general direction of the squadrons of lathi-wielding police and gun-toting army men. Spotting my attempted queue-jump, one cop tightened his grip on his lathi and began to yell in Urdu, but I quickly blurted out the words "Sri Lankan media", and it was as if I uttered the password to his heart. "Ah, Sri Lankan! Comecomecome," he bellowed, a look of both joy and apology, having now descended. When I drew close, he brought up a calloused hand, cupped my cheek with his non-lathi hand, and stared tenderly into my eyes. "Welcome to Pakistan."

Not to brag, but for the next ten minutes, I was a VIP. The first cop yelled to other cops down the security line that a Sri Lankan was coming through, and everywhere I looked there were appreciative nods, and hands held out to be shaken. I was patted down repeatedly, of course, and my bag was opened up and examined, but each of these interactions was bookended by a "shukriya", and a pat on the back. If I had thought to bring my own palanquin, I am half sure I would have been happily carried.

As each concentric security circle opened itself up to me, even the spectators had begun to take notice. Far from being annoyed that I was being ushered in ahead of them, they began to offer their own handshakes and back-pats. Two invitations for a meal were extended. One young man asked for a selfie, listed off his favourite ESPNcricinfo writers, and through the course of the day would proceed to firm up dinner plans for later in the week. At the final checkpoint, one last courtesy: the man who operated the bag scanner took my backpack from the machine, and carried it 10 metres to the entrance to the media centre for me.

With luck, Test cricket beds down again in Pakistan, and this tour snowballs into a regular schedule. When that happens, maybe the welcome won't be quite so joyful. Perhaps fans will stop writing signs thanking the opposition for visiting. Maybe they won't chant "Sri Lanka" from the stands, as they did at various points today. And maybe, in time, foreign media will have to stand in queues, will be asked to observe full protocol, and be treated like everybody else.

But that's in the years to come, and those idiots, quite frankly, can suck it. For me, over the next two weeks? I'm milking this for all its worth.