MANCHESTER: At the halfway stage of Sunday’s World Cup blockbuster, a group of fans were standing with a banner with a picture of Imran Khan. ‘Play like cornered tigers,’ it read.
India had put up 336 on the board, Pakistan had not been playing like heavyweights and there was always this chance of rain making the chase tougher.
About 20 meters away in the area were spectators come down from the stands to buy food and drinks, the drums were revving it up. Fans in blue were celebrating already, singing in praise of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Not having done much of note till that point, Hardik Pandya too found mention in the chants.
That’s what was going on at Old Trafford all day on Sunday. With the weather forecast going wrong for once and the sun making a much longer appearance than the last few days, the fans were in high spirits to cheer yet another dominating Indian performance.
“Player of the World Cup,” came a shout after Rohit Sharma completed his second century of the tournament. “Take that,” screamed another, when Kuldeep Yadav went through the defence of Babar Azam.
The party to celebrate 7-0 against Pakistan in World Cups was on well before they were set a revised target which required them to score 136 off five overs.
It was one of those days when almost everything went right for Virat Kohli’s team after he lost what appeared to be a crucial toss.
KL Rahul made up for the absence of Shikhar Dhawan, India’s man of the moment Rohit continued to excel in his mixed role of anchor-cum-aggressor, the skipper came up with an effort of substance for the umpteenth time and even though some of the fans felt not getting 350 might prove costly, the collective effort of the bowling unit made sure there were no anxious moments in the second half.
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The injury to Bhuvneshwar Kumar made no difference as Vijay Shankar struck with his first delivery and Kuldeep justified his place in the XI by sticking mainly to his stock delivery and tossing it up.
Although Pakistan did have a second-wicket partnership going, the pace was inadequate and the scoreboard pressure was bound to become too much at some stage.
After that, it was a question of tightening the screws. Not that they were quiet in the stands at any point, but the level of noise escalated with the fall of each wicket.
“Champions for sure,” said Vivek, a businessman based in the US, who is in England on work and got lucky when a friend who had bought a ticket backed out at the last moment owing to illness. Premature for sure, such boasting is not completely unfounded.
This team has successfully covered the chinks in the middle-order so far, thanks to consistent contributions from the top order. The top three has made 678 in three matches at 75.33 and in all the games, one of the openers have made a century.
“Who cares,” said Hari, an IT guy based in London. “As long as they do this job, we have men lower down to play the big shots. Look at Pandya and Dhoni.”
One could have argued with him, but that would have been futile because the counterargument involves ifs and buts.
As on June 16, 2019, this Indian team and its fans believe they have it in them to do it. And it was not a good time to argue either, because that was going to be risky. They were tired in the stands, but it was their day, when they were not ready to buy the contrary.