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India drag wild win from T20 World Cup rain chaos as Pakistan batters fall short
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India drag wild win from T20 World Cup rain chaos as Pakistan batters fall short

After five years of planning, eight months spent nurturing four pitches which then had to be transported from Australia to the US, six months of construction work on $30m worth of ­temporary stadium, including the installation of 34,000 seats and 100 hospitality boxes, the organisation of a security operation that involved seven agencies, including the police forces of three counties and the FBI, the deployment of snipers, Swat teams, roadblocks, a helicopter, a 50-person video surveillance team, hundreds of buses, and the closure of 1,000 acres of public park, the biggest game ever played in the US was finally ready to get under way.

And then it started raining.

Well, they were never going to let a little thing like the weather stop this fixture. They got the game on, in the end, and it was a good one, a giddy, gut-twisting, pulse-quickening, head-spinning set-to. In the end, after five hours of on-and-off play, ­Pakistan’s opening bowlers, Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi, needed to score 18 runs off the last five balls of the final over, bowled by Arshdeep Singh. They managed 11 between them, and India won by six.

Pakistan were chasing only 120 and, at 57 for one after 10 overs of the innings, they looked likely to do it, too. But then Axar Patel got Usman Khan lbw, and Hardik Pandya had Fakhar Zaman was caught behind off a top edge. The listing innings lurched away from them entirely when Mohammad Rizwan was bowled by the first ball of Jasprit Bumrah’s ­second spell. Rizwan had batted through the innings for 31 off 44. And while Pakistan needed only 37 runs from the last 35 balls, the tension was too much, and the bowling too tight, for their lower order of Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed.

India’s own innings was just as wild. They were 50 for two after the power­play, with both openers out. Virat Kohli hit one scoring shot, a cover drive for four, that was worth the large part of the $175 (£137) general entry alone, and was then caught at point. He was the first of three to be dismissed by Naseem Shah, who also bowled Patel for 20 after he was promoted up to No 4, and caught Shivnam Dube after bamboozling him with his own slower ball. With Rohit Sharma already caught in the deep for 19 trying to hit Afridi for a second six, and Suryakumar Yadav caught at mid-off, India were wobbling.

Mohammad Rizwan (left) bats during a period when it looked like Pakistan were favourites to win.View image in fullscreen

You could not say Rishabh Pant steadied India exactly, but he at least kept them rattling along towards a score they could defend. He was dropped three times, once at slip and twice in the deep by Usman Khan, though they were both hard chances, and in between he ran the gamut from sublime to ridiculous. At one point he played a lofted cover drive for four off a 90mph delivery from Haris Rauf, and then followed it by throwing himself face-first off his feet while playing a glance for four through fine leg. Pant was eventually caught for 42 at mid-off when he misjudged a lofted drive off one of Mohammad Amir’s slower deliveries.

Amir, who made such a mess of the super over when Pakistan lost against USA, was superb all day. He removed ­Ravindra Jadeja first ball, and could easily have had another three wickets. In the end they went to Rauf, who ran through the tail. If only Pakistan’s ­batsmen were half as capable as their fast bowlers, they would be a hell of a team.

The International Cricket ­Council, then, got just about everything it wanted out of its showpiece match, after enduring a sweaty couple of hours worrying whether the game would go ahead. There had hardly been a drop of rain in daylight in New York all week, the five matches which had already been played here (which were, in effect, all dress rehearsals for this one) had not been interrupted once. But this being cricket, the big game was held for 50 minutes, started at last, then immediately stopped again for another half‑hour. In truth, the delay helped everyone to get into the venue. The logistics were well‑greased, but were starting to creak when dealing with a crowd of almost 35,000.

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The on-and-off of it only added to the merry chaos of it all. There was a plane circling overhead ­trailing a ­banner saying “Release Imran Khan”, a man out by the gates ­protesting Iran’s inclusion in Brics (an ­intergovernmental organisation that includes Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa), a huge Indian ­tricolour was strung up between two of the grandstands, and had to be frantically brought down because the insurers were ­worried it was going to blow the whole thing over. Chris Gayle was striding around the outfield in a white suit and captain’s hat, asking the ­players to sign his jacket, Yuvraj Singh was doubling up his appearance here with another at the NBA finals in Boston in the evening.

Sachin Tendulkar was out there somewhere, though the only way you could pick him out was to look for the crowd pressing round him; so was the San Antonio Spurs’ Victor Wembanyama, who was in the unfamiliar position of being overshadowed by someone almost two feet shorter than him. There were a bunch of other VIP guests in an enclosure on the outfield during the warm-ups, who got soaked along with everyone else, because the $10,000 they had paid for their seats did not run to a bit of cover. Not that anyone minded. They were a happy crowd, and the game a glorious celebration of what it means to be American in the 21st century.

Source: theguardian.com