This was one I couldn’t write while I was watching, the long awaited match between Pakistan and India. I drove up from Taunton through torrential rain, heading to Manchester a place renowned for rain at the best of times! Saturday evening was spent with some of my Stani Army friends at a restaurant in Wilmslow, Lal Qila followed by ice cream! The company was a delight and the atmosphere in the area amazing, a sign of what was to come.
I arrived in good time to the ground, staying in Sale I had a 15 minute walk to the tram stop then a short ride, Sale’s a perfect area to stay for Old Trafford. I arrived in the ground in time for the toss albeit on the big screen, and amazingly Sarfraz won his first one! Was this a toss that would’ve been good to lose? I suspect so!
India were put in to bat, I was there in my Pakistan shirt, supporting Pakistan, but also watching some of my favourite players, in blue shirts. My seat in Stand D, usually the party stand, almost required oxygen by the time I got up there! To then find I had to go down again, that meant I took a different route to leave when the rain showed up.
What was clear from the moment I got off the tram was the disparity in the fan balance. Pakistan were completely outnumbered by the India fans, I say by maybe 50 to 1 in the stand I was in! Just how that’s possible with tickets distributed in a random ballot I do not know. I listen to TMS while I watch the game and was frustrated by their stance on this, Pakistan fans wanted to be there, no question, they care just as much as the Indian fans! I was very lucky to have received a ticket in the ballot.
And so to the cricket. With Shikhar Dhawan missing through injury, India opened with Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul. I alway feel that Rohit is under hyped, he really is an outstanding opener against a white ball. Having watched him play for India last summer I know how dangerous he can be. Both Rohit and Rahul played carefully against Pakistan’s opening bowler Amir, in fact while editing my photos from the early overs I’m struggling to find photos of Rohit, he seemingly got away from Amir as quickly as he could! Both men batted well, but Rahul was the first to lose his wicket, he was eventually caught by Babar from the bowling of Wahab.
Rahul’s exit saw virtual cricket god, Virat Kohli come to the crease, he is a wonderful batsman to watch, but I confess I wanted him to fall from a small run count in this match!
It was hard to see where a wicket was going to come from for Pakistan, the fields set by Sarfraz were largely defensive and most of the bowling unchallenging for players of the calibre of Rohit and Kohli. Rohit certainly did take the strike, he amassed 140 runs from 113 balls, forming a partnership of 98 with his captain. He hit 14 Fours and 3 Sixes before Hassan had a result, Rohit was caught by Wahab and India were 234 for 2 in the 39th over.
Hardik Pandya was next up, he scored a quick fire 26 from 19 balls before Amir struck, he was caught by Babar. That brought a man who got as loud a cheer as Kohli, one MS Dhoni. A man who can change a game, or as he did at Lord’s last summer, bring it to a standstill. Thanks to Amir he didn’t get the chance to do either, he was out for 1 on his second ball, caught by Sarfraz. Maybe Dhoni should’ve tried to steer clear of Amir too! India had moved on to 298 for 4 in the 46th over.
While wickets were falling Kohli had built himself a decent score, he made 77 from 65 balls, when he swung his bat to a high ball from Amir, an appeal rung out and Kohli walked before the umpire lifted his finger. It subsequently appear he didn’t hit the ball.
Vijay Shankar contributed 15 and Kedar Jadav 9, India finished their innings on 336 for 5.
Pakistan needed a good start, but they didn’t get one, remarkably Imam lost his wicket in an over where 2 bowlers took the ball. Bhuvneshwar Kumar pulled up having bowled 4 balls of his third over, Shankar took over and Imam was trapped LBW for 7 on his first ball. Pakistan were 13 for 1 in the 5th over.
Babar Azam joined Fakhar. Losing Kumar clearly put a dent in India’s plans, but in common with their tour of England last summer, they had Ravi Jadeja to come on as 12th man. He’s one of the best fielders in the world, if not the best. For a man not often picked in the starting XI he spends an incredible amount of time in the field.
Fakhar really hadn’t made his mark in this World Cup, he and Babar batted well together putting on 104 in 83 minutes and just under 19 overs. Babar was bowled by Kuldeep Yadav for 48. Pakistan were 117 for 2 in the 24th over.
Fakhar survived a stumping, getting his foot down just in time, but he didn’t survive a ball he swept from Kuldeep, Chahal took the ball cleanly and Fakhar was out for 62 from 75 balls.
As you can tell from the number of balls used neither Fakhar nor Babar batted at a Strike Rate above 85. They used up a lot of balls to get their team to 126 for 3 in the 26th over. The rain had appeared several times during the day and looked likely to do so again.
Pakistan’s Middle Order, Hafeez – 9, Sarfraz – 12 and Malik a Golden Duck did next to nothing to aid their team. 126 for 3 very quickly went to 129 for 5 as Hafeez and Malik were out.
Imad Wasim came in at 6 and formed a partnership of 36 with Sarfraz, but Pakistan were way behind on both the chase and the DLS score, it went sky high as wickets fell. Sarfraz was out with the score on 165 for 6.
Shadab joined Imad and the pair showed at least a couple of the batsmen in the team how to go about things. Imad scored 46 from 39 balls and Shadab 20 from 14. Rain did come along and in spite of the time being virtually out and Pakistan having no chance of scoring enough runs the teams returned for 5 overs to be bowled. That was a ridiculous situation, another player may well have been injured and many of the crowd had left.