The eyes of over a billion people were on Old Trafford as India defeated neighbours Pakistan by 89 runs according to the DLS method, in their much anticipated clash at the Cricket World Cup.
The Indian fans turned Manchester into Mumbai as they roared their team to victory. Led by a match-winning innings by Rohit Sharma (140 off 113) balls, India made 336-5 in their 50 overs.
For Pakistan chasing 337 was always going to be a tall order, and they struggled to reach the target as India increased their stranglehold of the game and ensured victory.
Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and has decided to field, in the hope that his bowlers could take advantage of the moisture in the pitch.
Once again, opener Mohammed Amir was the best of the Pakistan bowlers, who got his team off to a fantastic start with a maiden.
Hassan Ali, although very expensive later, also made a bright start. The match could have turned out very differently if Rohit Sharma’s thick inside edge had rebounded onto the stumps. The ball however squirmed away for four and India were finally on the scoreboard.
Sharma hit a gorgeous off drive for four in the fourth over and a couple of overs later, hit the first six of the match. KL Rahul came in to replace Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order and in hindsight proved to be the right choice.
Amir was looking threatening but his aggression was leading him to fall foul of the umpires. He was given two warnings by the umpires for stepping into the red zone in the centre of the pitch. One more would have resulted in Pakistan losing their star bowler.
Pakistan chose two specialist spinners for this match, Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan, to take advantage of the spinning pitch at Old Trafford.
However, both struggled to make the desired impact. Shadab, bowling the last over of the first powerplay, was hit for 17 runs. This included a six and a four from Sharma, and a four from Rahul.
To make things worse for Pakistan, they missed out on a seemingly certain run out, when the Indian openers got into a muddle. However, the fielder in the deep threw to the wrong end.
Sharma finished the powerplay with a crunching cut shot, and India finished the powerplay 53-0.
India continued to dominate the next ten-over session also. The openers ran hard for the ones and twos, and under the pressure the Pakistan in-fielders misfielded and allowed easy runs.
The openers saw off the danger of the new ball and reached their century partnership in the 18th over, with Rohit scoring 61 of those off 52 balls, and KL Rahul scoring 37 off 56.
Their first wicket was a long time coming, but Pakistan finally got it in the 24th over. Wahab was the who got the breakthrough, as his full delivery to KL Rahul (57 off 78) was hit in the air and caught at cover.
Rohit Sharma reached his century from 85 balls in the 30th over. And in the 35th over, India brought up their 200.
Pakistan’s bowlers continued to make the mistake of using the short ball against him. While it was initially working against Virat, Sharma punished them for it with thrashing pulls on the leg side, and exquisite pulls on the leg side.
However, just as he was trying to pick up the run rate and lead India to a huge score, Sharma did not manage to get his scoop shot over short fine leg and was caught out. His 140 from 113 balls was a fine innings and provided the perfect platform for India to register a massive total.
In the final over of the second powerplay, India scored 10 runs, with a powerful punch over mid-wicket from Kohli for four, and some hard running between the stumps.
India brought up 250 in the 41st over. A mishit six and crunching four from Pandya in the 43rd over, and in the next, Kohli reached his fifty, with a fantastic off-drive.
Virat and Pandya seemed to be going into the next gear, but after creaming a four, Pandya’s helicopter shot to cow corner was caught on the boundary, and he was out for 26 off 19.
With India scoring another 12 runs in the 45th over, including another two fours from Captain Kohli, India looked set for a flurry in the final five overs.
This however did not materialise. The usually fantastic finisher MS Dhoni was caught behind by Sarfaraz from Mohammed Amir.
Vijay Shankar was given out caught behind but the review showed that his bat hit the ground and not the ball. As the drizzle turned to rain, play was stopped with 20 balls remaining in the innings.
Pakistan capped off a brilliant last five overs with the huge wicket of Virat Kohli. Mohammed Amir fired in a fast bouncer which he appeared to edge behind to Sarfaraz.
However, in a dramatic twist, it was shown that on ultraedge that the ball missed his bat completely. But Kohli chose not to review the decision at the time, and walked off the pitch.
Vijay Shankar finished unbeaten on 15 off 15, and Kedar Jadhav on 9 not out from 8 balls, as India posted a total of 336-5.
After another brief disruption for rain after the break, play resumed with Pakistan requiring 337 from 50 overs to win.
The Indian opening pair of Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah bowled brilliantly in tandem. They bowled a disciplined line and length and applied pressure by limiting the runs.
This was brought to halt in the fourth ball of the fifth over when Bumrah pulled up injured and was not able to continue. This seemed like a huge blow to India, not only for this match, but the tournament ahead.
In a dramatic twist, however, Vijay Shankar, who was brought in to bowl the last two balls of the over, bowled a straight full delivery which trapped Imam-ul-Haq out lbw.
India were ahead at the end of the first powerplay, with Pakistan 38-1, having lost an early wicket and scoring their runs at a slow run rate.
It took the 13th over for Pakistan to reach the half-century mark. Babar and Fakhar steadied the innings but with the required rate being over 7, they needed to push on to ensure that the target did not slip out of reach.
A big difference between the two teams had been the speed and athleticism of the infielders. The Pakistan fielders gave away many runs, whereas the Indian infielders stopped boundaries with diving efforts and supported their bowlers.
The 16th over was brilliant one for Pakistan, as they scored 11 runs. After Fakhar and Babar had earned their runs the hard way, the former started to let his hands go and he smashed a couple of boundaries as he started to go up into the next gear.
Over the next ten overs, Fakhar and Babar rebuilt Pakistan’s innings. Fakhar reached his half century and then Pakistan brought up their century, as the two made a spirited century partnership.
Mystery spin is a big factor in white ball cricket and it was Kuldeep Yadav who got the breakthrough for India with a double-strike. Babar was bamboozled by a brilliant ball which bowled him between the gate. It was unfortunate as Babar had played so well and was two runs short of his fifty.
His demise was shortly followed by his batting partner Fakhar. His 62-run 75-ball innings came to an end when he top-edged an attempted sweep to Chahal at square leg.
Hardik Pandya then entered the attack and registered his own double-strike in consecutive balls. The first victim was Hafeez, who had come out swinging with big shots, clipped a ball off the pads but it went high into the air and was caught by Shankar at square leg.
The next ball, Pakistan’s experience former captain Shoaib Malik was bowled out for a golden duck, when an inside edge rebounded onto the stumps. With Pakistan at 129-5, this effectively ended their run chase.
The situation was now very tough for Pakistan. Captain Sarfaraz struggled to get going, but his determination meant that he would not give up easily. He dug deep to stay in but eventually was out for 12 runs for 30 balls.
Shankar was the man to take his wicket. His being brought into the bowling attack was an inspired move by Captain Fantastic Virat Kohli and his unexpected impact brought much joy to Indian fans.
At the end of 35th, with Pakistan on 166-6, play again came to a halt due to another bout of rain. After a delay, play then resumed at 19:10 local time.
The innings had been reduced to 40 overs and a new revised DLS target was set at 302 for the remaining five overs.
Although it was too little too late, spinners Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan both enjoyed late cameos to prove how handy they can be with the bat, as they took Pakistan to 212-6 from 40 overs.
It was a fantastic day out for both sets of fans. According to some sources, 800,000 people had applied for tickets for this game, which gives you some perspective of how big this fixture is in the sporting landscape, and just how fortunate the 26,000 people in attendance were.
In this particular fixture, it looked like it was the fans of Team India that managed to get their hands on the majority of tickets. The sea of blue, with their tricolour flags made Old Trafford look like the Wankhede. It would have felt like a home game for the India fans.
Pakistan were largely outplayed in this match. However, one gets the sense that there is still much fight left in this Pakistan side. They will however really need to work on their fielding.
With the fear of sounding like a broken record, Pakistan are a talented side. If they perform like they did against England they would win more games.
Knowing this is what probably frustrates Pakistan’s loyal fanbase. They will look to bounce back with a win against South Africa on Sunday 23rd June 2019, at the Home of Cricket, Lord’s.
This was a massive test for India as the pressure to perform against the team, which historically at least, are their biggest rivals.
The team might feel now that they have made amends for the loss to Pakistan two years ago in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final.
Their next game is against Afghanistan on Saturday 22nd June 2016 at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. As they build up momentum in their World Cup campaign, they are convincing more and more people that they are favourites.
Images courtesy of the ICC Cricket World Cup Twitter account