INDIA V PAKISTAN. There is something about the rivalry which makes people forget about being neutral and become a patriot even if it is for a day. Be it the bitter history, the ongoing political tension or just the mere lack of bilateral fixtures, this one game is probably the first which the fans search for when the schedule is announced.
The 2019 World Cup was no different. That Pakistan had beaten India in the final of 2017 Champions Trophy was even more reason for Match 22 of the 2019 World Cup to be spicy.
It is no secret that Pakistan have historically struggled against India in World Cups. Before the fixture between these two sides in the 2019 edition of the quadrennial event, Pakistan had played India on six occasions and lost each time. On this very day, in 2019, the record changed to 7-0 as India once again thrashed their arch-rivals by 89 runs (D/L method) in the group game of the World Cup.
A sea of blue and green had descended on Old Trafford Stadium in Manchester while approximately 273 million unique viewers tuned in on their television sets to watch the game unfold. So, yes, it definitely was not just another match. The rain was expected to play a part in the affair and it did but that was not going to dampen anyone's spirits, was it?
Irrespective of the history and numbers, India were always going into the game with an upper-hand. They were coming into the match unbeaten while Pakistan had lost two of their four matches ahead of the clash.
Another reason why India were touted as favourites was the horrendous form of Pakistan's two main pacers Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali while India's spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav seemed to be on a roll.
Pakistan won the toss and elected to field, a decision they were left to rue almost immediately. Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul were switched on from the word go. Rohit, who generally likes to take his time, for a change was at it right away. His strike-rate in the first 20 balls of his innings was 125. Rahul, on the other end, was a bit more sedate with his approach.
Rohit's first four was a streaky one but the rest of the innings was a smooth sail. The cuts, pulls, drives were all in order and it looked as if he wanted to stamp his authority nice and early. The other problem Pakistan had to deal was Amir being warned twice for running on the danger area inside the first five overs of the innings.
Rohit struck his favourite pull shot off Hasan in the sixth over of the innings as India raced to 53/0 after the end of 10 overs. Pakistan had a golden chance to run Rohit out on 32 but they failed to make the most of it. The opener made them pay and how.
A four, six and four in leg-spinner Shadab Khan's first over saw Rohit race to a half-century off just 34 balls. By the end of the 18th over, India too had reached their 100 with all their wickets intact. Rahul picked up pace reaching his fifty off 68 balls with a massive six over mid-wicket off Shoaib Malik.
India lost their first wicket in the form of Rahul with the score on 136 after 23.5 overs. But Rohit remained unperturbed. He was joined by Virat Kohli and the duo did not let the momentum slip at all.
It did not take Rohit much time to glide through the middle phases. He reached his century off 85 balls and the way he was going, another double-hundred was not looking far-fetched. Pakistan looked really down on the field as India reached their 200-run mark with more than 15 overs to spare.
Rohit did finally get out on 140 off 113 balls playing a rather needless scoop off Hasan to Wahab Riaz at short fine leg. His innings was studded with 14 fours and three sixes.
With rain in the air, India promoted Hardik Pandya up the order and while he did get some good shots away, he wasn't in for too long. A rain delay gave Pakistan some respite and they snapped up Kohli soon after for a 65-ball 77. Eventually, India reached 336 for 5 at the end of the 50 overs. They looked like going beyond 350 at one stage when Rohit and Kohli were batting but Pakistan did well to drag them back.
India's defence was set back when Bhuvneshwar Kumar limped off in just his third over due to a hamstring niggle. But Vijay Shankar struck with his very first ball to get rid of Imam-ul-Haq for 7. The Indian bowlers kept Pakistan on a tight leash giving almost nothing away. By the end of 10 overs, the Men in Green could only manage 38 runs with the required rate already having climbed close to 7.50 run per over.
Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman did try to make a fight of it adding 104 runs for the second wicket but the former's wicket opened the floodgates. Kuldeep bowling the most perfect leg-break breached Babar's defence for 48. Soon after Zaman too departed for 62 and with Mohammad Hafeez and Malik falling in one over, Pakistan's chances started diminishing.
The clouds opened up once again after the 35-over mark but with Pakistan needing close to 12 run an over with only five wickets remaining, the game was as good as done when the players went off the field. When they did come back out, the DLS equation had Pakistan needing an improbable 136 off 30 balls to win with the game being truncated to 40 overs. They limped to 212 for 6 to fall short by 89 runs. (DLS method).
Rohit was named Man of the Match for his innings while India continued their unbeaten run against Pakistan in World Cups.
* With 15 points from nine games, India topped the table after the round-robin stage but lost to New Zealand in the semi-final
* Pakistan finished fifth after the group stage and failed to make past it the first stage
* England beat New Zealand in a heart-stopping affair in the final