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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 March, 2005, 17:35 GMT
Test unites India and Pakistan

By Ayanjit Sen
BBC News, Chandigarh

Indian cricket fans
A cordial atmosphere was apparent before and during the game

It was probably the first time that Indian and Pakistani cricket fans had entered Mohali stadium in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh without either the fear of losing or obsession with victory.

When the first ball of Indian fast bowler, Irfan Pathan, hit the willow of the opening Pakistani batsman, there was a loud cheer from two people, among thousands of others.

One was holding an Indian flag and another a Pakistani one.

They were embracing each other.

Epic battle

It was difficult to say whether it was a five-day Test match or a one-day international, with the number of people attending the first day of the match.

People had queued outside the stadium from very early in the morning to grab their seats and witness yet another epic battle on the beautifully manicured square.

Nine-year-old Shivam,  cricket fan from Chandigarh
I have come to cheer both the Indian and the Pakistani teams playing together
Shivam, nine year old cricket fan from Chandigarh

Although there was the usual sub-continental scrum as fans tried to get last minute tickets, all was transformed when they entered the stadium.

Younger fans were everywhere, such as nine-year-old Shivam, a resident of Chandigarh, who was accompanied by his father and brother.

He said he was cheering both teams.

Another Indian fan told me it was a red letter day in the history of cricketing relations between the two neighbours.

"It is as if Kashmir has been forgotten. Long lost neighbours have decided to bury their past and move on," said the fan.

Most parts of the stadium were packed to capacity and flowing beards and sherwanis - jackets beloved by men on both sides of the India-Pakistan border - could be seen at every corner of the ground.

Ticketless residents enjoyed the match from the roof-tops.

Croeds at Mohali
The ground was packed to the rafters

"Cricket has definitely built bridges. This electrifying atmosphere is what I was looking for. Our Punjabi brothers have been gracious hosts," says Kaman, a student in Lahore.

Mexican waves around the stadium, chants, banners and trumpet-blowing - all was done with unflagging enthusiasm by fans of both countries.

It was like a festival of love.

Performances applauded

"It is a great feeling to be in a field with an Indian bowler bowling to a Pakistani batsman. It is the mother of all sporting contests," said an Indian fan.

The bandwagon of friendship shown by fans of both countries did not run out of steam all through the day.

The performances of both Pakistani and Indian players were applauded.

Every run scored and every wicket taken were cheered by the crowd. But there were also a few visitors who did not fall in the usual category of supporters.

Pakistani fans
The match was characterised by ceaseless chanting from both sides

Michael, a student at a British university, said he only wanted to feel the pulse of the crowd.

"I have come to watch the match. But more than the match, it is the constant cheering of the crowd for hours which I am enjoying," he said.

Tight security arrangements were made inside the stadium with policemen guarding every corner of the ground.

Meanwhile, chants of Indo-Pakistan friendship were heard all over the stadium for all of the day.

The noise was so ear-piercing that it prompted a journalist sitting in the press box actually to shout out of the window in a futile request for the fans to quieten down.

However, it was not to be. The celebrations continue.


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