The sense of anticipation was tangible from the moment you arrived at the ground. With little under three hours to the start of play and an hour before the gates opened, supporters were already gathering outside Old Trafford, desperate to drink in every moment of the day.
India versus Pakistan. A monumental game not only within the world of cricket but, with a prediction of one billion viewers worldwide, one of the biggest games in sport. And these days, their meetings are few and far between.
It is two years since they last played, that was a final, the Champions Trophy at The Oval, but this is the World Cup – another level entirely.
If you were in any doubt about the scale of this match, the fact that over half a million people applied for tickets should tell you all you need to know. The 26,000 who did manage to get their hands on a ticket were keen to make their presence felt.
Even for those lucky enough to have been to an India-Pakistan match before, the atmosphere never fails to astound. There really is nothing quite like it.
The scenes on the concourse in the hour or so before the toss were enough to raise a smile from even the most curmudgeonly of observers. Above the colour and the noise, the singing, the dancing, the drums, the horns and the flags, even above the passion, was just an overwhelming feeling of joy.
The relationship between India and Pakistan could, at best, be described at fractious but there was no animosity here. Fans mixed happily and what verbal jousting there was, was all good natured. Those in attendance, it seemed, could hardly believe their luck and they were going to enjoy it.
Of course, where there is such a rivalry, there is always an element of competition but both on the pitch and in the stands, there was only one winner.
India simply overwhelmed Pakistan. They commanded around 90 percent of the support in the stadium and the roar as the team emerged for their warm-up was deafening.
Long before the game had even started, the noise was such that it was a challenge to even hold a conversation with the person sat next to you – and most of it was coming from those in blue.
As the Indian national anthem drew to a close the enormous temporary stand at Old Trafford resembled the Kop on a European night at Anfield, the fans singing en masse while flags and banners were waved with vigour.
Once play began, India’s domination of the occasion continued. Rohit Sharma was supreme, dismantling the Pakistan bowling attack with his devasting combination of power and grace. He had amassed 140 from 113 balls, more than half coming in boundaries, by the time he was dismissed.
The greatest ovations though were saved for the captains, current and former. Virat Kohli is the superstar of world cricket and the very sight of him ratcheted up the volume inside the ground a notch or two.
He treated the crowd to a typically stylish knock of 77 and it was almost too much for some to bear.
While his first boundary was greeted by the loudest cheer of the day in the stands, there were purrs from the press box as he stroked the ball between mid-off and extra cover; another example that while white-ball cricket is dominated by the big hitters, the world’s best has earned his crown through playing ‘proper’ cricket shots.
His predecessor as skipper, MS Dhoni was dismissed for just one but only after he had walked out to rapturous applause and horn-blowing vociferous enough that a few of those responsible may not even have been able to cheer the next Indian run.
There was just no let up from India, on or off the pitch. A rain delay could have halted their momentum with the bat and dampened spirits among the supporters but instead, once the rain had abated, both returned with even greater gusto.
As Pakistan stumbled in their chase of 337 there was an inevitable drop off in intensity and on the field, India knew they had the win all-but secure and did what was required to safeguard the result.
The crowd knew the game was over as a contest too but that did not stop them celebrating every wicket wildly. The joy that had typified the build-up was still there, no doubt aided by events on the field, and they were going to vocalise it until the end.
Perhaps the only mild frustration will be that many of them missed that end, leaving when another downpour forced the players off the field, seemingly for the last time.
However, the officials found some extra time and the players returned for a somewhat farcical final five overs in which Pakistan were set a nigh-on impossible target of 136 more runs to win.
It was not how they might have wanted it to finish but the result was never in doubt. Pakistan will have their chance to avenge it in years to come but on this occasion, they were simply overwhelmed by India – both on and off the pitch.News Now - Sport News