November 21, 2019, 18:36

India and Pakistan fans ensure World Cup clash lives up to the hype – off the pitch at least

India and Pakistan fans ensure World Cup clash lives up to the hype – off the pitch at least

The rain briefly threatened to bring proceedings to a premature end but the India and Pakistan fans ensured that a hotly-anticipated World Cup clash at Old Trafford was no damp squib before a ball went down, writes Sam Drury.

7:34am – “What do you think about the game today?” There was no time for niceties as far as my taxi driver was concerned, we were heading to Old Trafford and there was only going to be one topic of conversation: India vs Pakistan.

The biggest game in world cricket, certainly in terms of the global audience it attracts, and the biggest worry for the man at the wheel, more so even than the damage Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and co could do to Pakistan, was that the estimated one billion people across the world tuning in would be left watching re-runs as the rain falls in Manchester.

For now though, the clouds are high and the sun is even trying to peep through.

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7:57am – More than two-and-a-half hours before the start of play and the crowds are already starting to build outside the gates, vendors selling flags and horns long since settled in their positions. The excitement and anticipation, not to mention a few nerves, are palpable.

Meetings between these sides are a rarity and when they do come around, tickets are almost as hard to come by as a rain-free day at this World Cup. More than half-a-million people applied for tickets, those assembling on the streets outside the ground are among the lucky 26,000 who succeeded, and all seem determined to enjoy every minute of it.

8:53am – As the first supporters start to filter into the stands, there are a number of nervous glances skywards. In the past 45 minutes the skies have darkened with a cluster of ominous-looking clouds hanging over Old Trafford.

The first drops of rain fall and within 30 seconds the hover cover chugs into life, only to stop short of the cut strip. The briefest of passing showers has passed.

Broadcasters from across the globe bounce from group to group trying to capture the best shots of fans with faces painted, draped in flags, singing and dancing to beat of the drums while the drone of the horns brought back memories of the vuvuzelas so prominent during the football World Cup of 2010 in South Africa.

9:33am – India’s numerical advantage over Pakistan in the crowd is clear for all to see. Swathes of blue cover the stands with Indian flags flying all around the ground, interrupted occasionally by pockets of green.

10:23am – With the crowd having worked themselves up into a fervour, the decibel level rises yet again as the teams emerge from the changing rooms and make their way down the staircases at either end of the media centre.

Not a ball has been bowled but as the sides line up for the anthems, the fans have ensured that this game has already delivered a spectacle that lives up to the hype. It should come as no surprise. No matter what happens on the pitch, when it comes to India versus Pakistan, those in the stands never disappoint.

7:29pm – A somewhat farcical end and the close contest many neutrals would have craved may not have transpired, but, as Kohli leads his team off victorious, the India fans who made up around 90 per cent of the crowd at Old Trafford could not care less.

In between rain delays, they were treated to a clinical display from their side: a blistering, brilliant hundred from Rohit Sharma, some vintage Kohli strokes as he became the fastest player to 11,000 ODI runs and a moment of magic from Kuldeep Yadav to bowl Babar Azam through the gate.

India march on, looking every bit the potential champions, while Pakistan’s chances of reaching the semi-finals are hanging by a thread. That disparity was evident on the pitch but it was nothing that all the fans, at the ground and watching around the world, did not already know.


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