For the best part of Saturday, one of South Africa’s favourite cricket grounds was converted into a suburb of Karachi or Delhi as Indians and Pakistanis packed the SuperSport Park to the rafters for a one-day game that provided twists and turns unlimited.
Pakistan went some way to shaking off the stranglehold that India have over them in ICC events, winning by 54 runs.
This Indian team has pulled together as a group magnificently over the last year and on the day it was no different as the batsmen did their best to paper over a mediocre bowling performance, but chasing 303 under lights was beyond them on Saturday.
To chase down such a massive score in a pressure game, India needed one batsman to last the distance and several others to play around him. In Rahul Dravid (76) they found their marathon runner, while Gautam Gambhir got the innings off at a gallop and Suresh Raina picked up the slack in the second half.
Gambhir, who walked out with the attitude of a streetfighter, picked his gaps adroitly, and only committed to the big shot when he knew it was on. One such blow, a huge six over square-leg, took Gambhir to his half-century, one that was followed by much animated gesticulation in the direction of Younis Khan. But Gambhir (57), who had done well to make up for the early loss of Sachin Tendulkar, fell soon after, run out while trying to regain his crease.
Virat Kohli began well before throwing his wicket away, holing out to long off and Mahendra Singh Dhoni walked into a ball that was headed for his middle stump. At 133 for 5 the run chase had been seriously derailed, but Dravid, along with Raina, engineered a recovery.
Raina (46) struck some emphatic blows, none more so than a straight six off Umar Gul, and just when it looked like he might take India past the finish line, disaster struck. Umpire Steve Davis failed to notice a thick inside edge and gave Raina out lbw to Shahd Afridi.
Yusuf Pathan was kept quiet on arrival and was suckered into playing the booming drive to the first ball that was pitched up, and edged straight to the lone wide slip. When Dravid departed soon after — run out contemplating a third run — India’s chase shut down.
While disappointment is unavoidable, the manner in which India fought in the face of a massive score bodes well for the rest of the tournament. Pakistan, for their part, brought their best game to the fore in the first half, with Shoaib Malik (128) and Mohammad Yousuf (87) sharing in a 206-run fourth-wicket stand that powered them to 302.