First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
Taking an early lunch break on 6th May, I was bitterly disappointed to find that online tickets for the biggest game of the Champions Trophy had been sold out within two hours. But I did manage the next big thing - Pakistan v South Africa. After defeats for both in their respective opening games, this was a veritable do-or-die match.
The earliest memory that I have of my childhood is of my brother jumping off the sofa and landing on the glass table in front and shattering it when Miandad hit that six in Sharjah. Ever since, it's been Team Pakistan for me all the way.
In my opinion Ryan McLaren clearly stole the show. In the absence of Dale Steyn and Albie Morkel, I thought the Saffers would have no steam upfront, but Mclaren put paid to such hopes. His return in the batting Powerplay, when Misbah-ul-Haq was shuffling restlessly in his crease to break free, ensured Pakistan wouldn't pull off a late charge.
One thing I'd have changed
Nasir Jamshed's untimely dismissal. Misbah joined Jamshed at the fall of Shoaib Malik's wicket and after a few careful overs, both began to middle the ball. Jamshed was looking especially good in his knock of 42. His mishit came at a crucial time in Pakistan's chase and left Misbah a mountain too high to climb.
Face-off I relished
Amla v Ajmal - two colossi of the modern game squaring off in a classic battle. Following a bit of cat and mouse gameplay, Amla went after Ajmal with some reverse-sweeps. Finally, Ajmal had the last laugh when he induced a false shot to deny Amla a well-deserved century.
Misbah's acrobatic catch late in Saffers' innings was unbelievable. He had already had a splendid day in the field, saving a number of runs, and effecting two run-outs as well. But his blinder to dismiss David Miller off Junaid Khan's bowling was simply amazing. Seeing a 39 year-old leaping to intercept, and pouching it with both hands was priceless.
Shot of the day
For me this was AB de Villiers' effortless flick off Malik for a six in his first over. For the first time ever, I almost touched an international cricket ball as it fell a few inches short of my out outstretched hands. If this was a fairytale I might have caught AB and lived to tell the tale. Alas, that was not to be.
Even crowds in Karachi and Peshawar are not as partisan as they were here in Edgbaston. Every wicket taken, every run scored and even Wahab Riaz's glares at the batsman were greeted with deafening noise. Being in the same spectators block as Chacha Cricket meant a whole day of chanting and dancing to the tunes of 'Dil Dil Pakistan'. We were the originators of a number of Mexican waves that were consistently doing the rounds. This kept us entertained even when the Pakistani batsmen were inducing major yawns in the crowd.
Fancy dress index
Edgbaston was painted green today. A sea of Pakistani fans turned up in various interesting looks, in dresses to show their unmistakable affiliation. There was a Pakistani superman, a Pakistani Panesar and Shahid Afridi lookalikes.
The party atmosphere was amplified by the official drummers all around the ground. Every wicket and every six was followed by heart-pounding drumming. It really knocked our socks off.
Banner of the day:
A banner which at the start of the match read 'V R Ready India' turned to 'V R Not ready India' by the end of this woeful day for Pakistan.
For me this was a great ODI experience. The wonderful venue, boisterous crowd and some quality cricket gave us much to cheer about. However the sad end to the Pakistan innings did dampen my enthusiasm, which is why I will award this game 7 out of 10. Too bad I chose the wrong game to bring the Mrs. along to make her a convert. Never mind, may be next time.
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