The stands were not full. Yet, Kingsmead was as electric as any other India-Pakistan venue would have been. And what better finish would they have asked for in what was the feature match of the T20 tournament so far, from an Asian perspective at least. India's first target, after putting up what was finally, a not-so-bad 141 for nine off their 20 overs, was to make Pakistan bat for at least 14.5 overs and ensure a place among the Super Eight.
But, as skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had said on the eve of the match, they would like to win and qualify for the next stage. And with three overs left, it looked like India were on the right path. However, with 42 runs needed off 18 balls to get to the target of 142, Misbah-ul-Haq cut loose and put Pakistan on the verge of a win. However, Sreesanth, after conceding 10 runs off the first four balls of the overs, then bowled a dot ball and then with the field close in, Misbah was run out off the last ball of the over.
The match was a tie, but there was more to come. A bowl out, the cricketing version of a penalty shootout, was to follow. Five bowlers from each side aimed at the stumps. For India, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh and Robin Uthappa all hit the target while for Pakistan, Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi all missed the target to hand India a thrilling win.
This was the second bowl out in the history of T20 cricket. New Zealand had beaten West Indies with a similar 3-0 margin in February last year.
Earlier in the evening, at 36 for four in the seventh over, it was up to Robin Uthappa and Dhoni to stay at the wicket and ensure that India put up a fighting total. Uthappa took on the responsibility first, steadying the struggling Indian batting with his trademark straight drives and a stunning pull over midwicket for a six off Yasir Arafat.
Everyone at the ground was praying that the rain, which washed out India's match against Scotland on Friday, stayed away. But just when Uthappa, the star of India's famous ODI win at the Oval last week, and skipper Dhoni were changing gears, a steady drizzle forced the umpires to take the players off the field. But the drizzle got lighter and the players were back on in under 10 minutes. Uthappa, on 38 then, neither lost his touch nor his composure. A sparkling cover drive in the 12th over, bowled by Shahid Afridi, raced to the boundary and he raised his bat to celebrate his and India's first ever T20 fifty.
Then, the drizzle got heavier and forced the umpires to again take the players off the field again. And then, even before Uthappa and Dhoni crossed the boundary line, play resumed. It was maddening stuff, utterly confusing, cricket in fast-forward mode.
Uthappa went after this nano-break and India were undone. Earlier, the first eight overs all belonged to Pakistan as Asif dismantled the Indian batting.
India: Virender Sehwag, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain & wicketkeeper), Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Harbhajan Singh, RP Singh, Sreesanth.
Pakistan: Salman Butt, Shahid Afridi, Imran Nazir, Sohail Tanvir, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik (captain), Misbah-ul-Haq, Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper), Yasir Arafat, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif.