T20 World Cup: Pakistan stun India in Dubai as Mohammed Rizwan and Babar Azam sparkle

Pakistan end their World Cup hoodoo against greatest rivals with 10-wicket rout

Is it in any way possible for the 'Biggest Fixture in Cricket' to ever actually live up to the hype?

To satisfy the wild expectancy of a meeting of a pair of cricket-crazed neighbours, two countries who account for nearly a quarter of the world’s population?

The answer on this occasion was, unequivocally, yes. Shaheen Shah Afridi v Virat Kohli. Jasprit Bumrah v Babar Azam. Mohammed Rizwan v everyone.

India v Pakistan. At a World Cup. In front of a pulsing, manic crowd of people who have been craving the return of live sport, at Dubai International Stadium. It was box-office, and then some.

All the more so for those ticket-holders who were wearing green. The current Covid guidelines mean the matches at the T20 World Cup in UAE have been capped at 70 per cent of the usual capacity.

It is obvious to say Dubai could have sold out its full quota many times over for this game. And yet, even with 30 per cent of seats empty, the atmosphere still crackled more than it ever has before in the 12-year history of this ground in Sports City. More than for any IPL or PSL game. Or even when these same two countries met in the Asia Cup three years back.

It is possible that some might have expected the game to be as one-sided as it ended up being. But never in the direction the traffic ended up flowing in.

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This was a World Cup. Between India and Pakistan, there was only ever going to be one winner, surely? World Cup history, it turns out, is bunk.

“Records are made to be broken,” Babar had pointed out on the eve of the match, with an impressive air of understated calm.

He knew the stats. Pakistan in World Cup matches against India: zero wins. Pakistan in T20 internationals against India: one win from eight attempts.

But all that was then, and this is now. Why fuss about stuff that’s past?

Babar himself had played 11 T20 internationals in this country before this game and never lost one. Make that 12.

Pakistan arrived early. They had started their warm up before India had even made it through rush hour traffic and reached the ground.

As India’s players meandered out on to field, and Hardik Pandya did a pre-game interview with the host broadcasters at the boundary line, a member of Pakistan’s tour party wandered to the middle carrying a flag.

He planted it just to the edge of the square, on the side Pakistan were training. There was no great deep meaning to the gesture. It was something Pakistan had done in their warm up matches, too, presumably to motivate their players.

Four hours later, though, it felt as though it had been a statement. As if they were saying: this place is ours.

And for this day at least, it was. Entirely theirs. More or less from the moment the thrilling Shaheen dismissed Rohit Sharma with an unplayable yorker off the fourth ball of the match.

Sure, Kohli fought the good fight, with a half century which anchored his side to what felt a competitive tally of 151-7. He played some scarcely believable shots in the process, one straight six in particular off Shaheen that deserved at least a draw all on its own.

As it turned out, his effort was nowhere near close to being enough. Babar brought all the poise he had shown in the lead in to the game straight to the batting crease, too.

He finished unbeaten on 68, scurrying a two to win it with his effervescent opening partner, Mohammed Rizwan.

Rizwan's contribution had been even more impressive than his vaunted colleague at the other end. He was 79 not out from 55 balls when the victory was sealed.

A 10-wicket win, with 13 balls left over, does not add up to a trophy. These two teams might well yet meet again in this tournament.

But for one night at least, Pakistan were the champions of Dubai.

Updated: November 3rd 2021, 10:17 AM