St. George's Park is South Africa's oldest venue, the first ground outside of England and Australia to host an international game. It was also where Ali Bacher's world-beating side had its last hurrah, completing a 4-0 rout of Bill Lawry's Australians before more than two decades of isolation imbued them with near mythical status.

For some of the Indian fans I met before the match started, this was a chance to buck a miserable historical trend. One fan had seen all of India's three one-day matches here, dating back to 1992-93, and been disappointed every time. The last defeat was the most humiliating, with luminaries like Joseph Angara and Thomas Odoyo sending them plummeting to a 70-run defeat.

The ground has a fantastic atmosphere, with the stands and even the press box so close to the action. The beer sales were in full swing by early afternoon, with the sun beating down and the infamous wind keeping still. And the Indian flags were being waved loud and proud, despite the emphatic nature of the defeats at Durban and Cape Town.

Graeme Smith walked out for the national anthem giving one of the mascots a piggyback ride. It's a nice touch that the authorities back home would do well to adopt. Not only do the anthems gets the crowd primed for the occasion, but it also provides an invaluable experience for each small boy and girl asked to escort the players onto the field. There's a now-famous photograph from a Liverpool-Everton match in 1996, with a pint-sized 10-year-old lining up as the Everton mascot.

Wayne Rooney went on to bigger and better things, and even if none of the kids who lined up this afternoon scale such sporting heights, occasions such as these help immeasurably in inculcating a love of the game. Australia do it with the Milo-sponsored hit-abouts during the breaks in games, and India could do worse than to follow the example shown by the southern hemisphere nations. Who knows, the next Sachin Tendulkar might be the one who escorts him onto the field during a game at the Wankhede.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo