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Last Updated:  Saturday, 1 March, 2003, 19:13 GMT

More than just a game
By Martin Gough
BBC Sport in Centurion

In the end it was the orange, white and green Indian flags that waved higher after the clash of the Asian titans at Centurion Park, but this remained a classic from the annals of world cricket's biggest fixture.

Fortunes ebbed and flowed throughout the match, with each change in momentum met with a wall of noise from the capacity crowd almost as intense as the Gauteng heat.

Pakistan's players say well done to India after the match
Pakistan congratulate the Indian team after the match

The sense of occasion began on Friday, with the practice nets packed, any player willing to speak mobbed by cameras and microphones.

Another deck had to be added to the press box to cope with demand, while the public packed the grass banks that surround two-thirds of the picturesque stadium.

The thousands of travelling fans would have been satisfied enough simply to see the fixture.

Hunger for this most intense rivalry has not been fed in almost three years, and the military tensions between the two sides built the match up further.

But they were provided with a match that swung this way and that, dominated by the greats of the world game.

Captains Sourav Ganguly and Waqar Younis both claimed it would be "just another game" for the players, but that was disproved from the off as Zaheer Khan conceded four extras in the first over.

He was one of five members of the Indian side called on to perform against Pakistan for the first time, conscious of posters in India that read, "If you lose, don't come home".

Indian supporters at Centurion
Indian flags were waved in delight

Saeed Anwar steered Pakistan on a respectable course that Rashid Latif and Wasim Akram made challenging by a late-innings burst.

Anwar's 101 was the first century ever in a World Cup fixture between these neighbours but on a near-perfect pitch there could be little doubt that more was in store.

From the 10th ball of the innings, when Sachin Tendulkar stepped back to cut Shoaib Akhtar over the point boundary, the atmosphere reached fever pitch.

It could not be plain sailing for India, though, despite the pleas of their supporters.

Having limped bravely towards what would have been his third century against Pakistan, he was two runs short of setting the ground alight.

The man to dismiss him? His counterpart as icon in the Pakistan side, Shoaib coming back from a miserable start to bowl at speeds of up to 98mph.

Mike Proctor made the presentation
Tendulkar receives the Man of the Match award

A less spectacular stalwart of matches between these sides then crept in, India's watchful batting and Pakistan's fiddling fields mirroring the cautiousness that has seen 33 of 47 Tests end drawn.

After the early excitement there was anticlimax for neutral supporters, but there were few of those.

"It's hard to say how happy we all are," said Ganguly afterwards.

"It is a huge game back home. All the schools are closed, all the offices are closed, so we're happy to make people smile back in India."

From the huge smile on the normally-sallow skipper's face, it certainly was more than just a game.






SEE ALSO
Full scorecard
02 Mar 03 |  World Cup
Have Your Say on Pakistan
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say
Have Your Say on India
04 Jan 03 |  Have Your Say



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