With New Zealand struggling at seven down for 80-odd, Ismail Pahad and his friends walked out of Supersport Park to offer their afternoon prayers. When they were on their way back in, Pahad asked: "Are any more down? I just prayed for us to get a match."
India eventually won their Super
Six encounter against New Zealand on Friday. But it was a game of cricket they did their utmost to make interesting. They achieved this by doing a few things right — and a few things wrong.
After exactly three balls of the New Zealand innings, the Kiwis who had said they would reopen a few "old wounds", were in need of first aid.
Zaheer Khan had sent back Craig McMillan and Nathan Astle off successive balls.
Scott Styris walked in. And as he walked out after a breezy 15, skipper Stephen Fleming motioned to his teammates in the dressing room to send in wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum instead of the dangerous Chris Cairns.
With that the captain had just told the crowd — and his opponents — that at 38 for three New Zealand were bleeding. And the disciplined Indian pace attack wouldn't let the bleeding stop. On what is easily the best batting track in this tournament, 146 was hardly a total.
But Pahad had obviously prayed hard. Sehwag made the mistake of playing Bond the way he plays everybody — with disdain — and paid the price. Ganguly didn't see the delivery that got him — all he saw was his stumps being knocked back.
And at the other end, Sachin, looking supreme, was out, quite suddenly —caught at point off Tuffey. Twenty-one for 3. Just like the Kenya match. The game was on.
It may have been game gone, had McCullum not dropped a sitter from Dravid when he was on nought. Or if Chris Harris had held on to a chance offered by Mohammed Kaif.
At the post-match conference, Fleming said of McCullum’s miss: “I didn’t even see it. I had tears in my eyes.”
In the end, both Dravid and Kaif got half-centuries in a measured partnership that finally saw India home.
Beating New Zealand was important for India. This was pitched as a grudge game for the Indians — the opportunity to get the Kiwis on a level playing field after the custom-made snake pits in New Zealand.
You take revenge when you inflict equal pain on someone who's hurt you. The Indian cricket team probably did just a little more than that on Friday. The New Zealanders, who've probably just been knocked out of cricket's biggest tournament (they will go through for the semi-final against Australia only if Zimbabwe manage to beat Sri Lanka on Saturday), would most likely have traded a win here for the results in the recent home series against India.