While India and Pakistan players may publically play down the significance of today's meeting at Centurion, the subplots alone could be enough to make a Bollywood movie. Games between the countries can draw a television audience of one billion viewers, and defeat is unpalatable for both sets of fans.
The rivalry dates back to the partition of India in 1947, and memorable moments on the cricket field have come thick and fast, especially in recent years. In 1984 in Sharjah, the Indian, team led by Kapil Dev, made just 125 in a ODI before bowling Pakistan out for 87 in one their most memorable triumphs over their neighbours. Two years later, Chetan Sharma, the first man to take a hat-trick in a World Cup, bowled the last over in the final of the Australasia Cup in Sharjah.
With Pakistan needing four runs off the last ball, his low full-toss outside the leg-stump was hit for six by Javed Miandad. That ball made Sharma public enemy No 1 with Indian cricket fans, while Miandad was the Pakistan hero. In these games one ball can seal a player's legacy. In the 1996 World Cup quarter-final, in Bangalore, Aamir Sohail smashed a delivery from Venkatesh Prasad through the covers for a four. He then pointed his bat towards the boundary where the ball had gone. With the very next delivery, Prasad bowled Sohail and pointed his finger towards the pavilion.
Ahead of a match in the 2003 Videocon Cup, Shahid Afridi claimed that Irfan Pathan was no match for him and he would hit a six off the first ball. He lived up to the promise, with the ball landing in a nearby stream outside the stadium. A new Pakistan hero could emerge today as they chase just their second Champions Trophy win over their old rivals. "It's time the senior batsmen should say goodbye," said the former captain and opening batsman Ramiz Raja, after Pakistan laboured to a five-wicket win over the Windies on Wednesday.
"They [the experienced batsmen] looked novices while Umar Akmal batted with much more maturity. It looked as if they don't have bats in their hands," he added after senior batsmen Mohammed Yousuf, Shoiab Malik and Misbah ul Haq struggled for runs. And another former test opener, Aamir Sohail, said that the experienced batsmen are not playing for the team. "They are playing for their survival, they have always struggled on the wicket where there's seam movement," he said.
Akmal, 19, made 41 against the Windies and has scored 233 runs in five one-day internationals with an impressive average of 77.66. Younus Khan, the captain, is expected to return for Pakistan after missing Wednesday's game with a finger injury. The last time the two teams met was in a warm up Twenty20 match at the Oval ahead of the T20 World Cup in England. India won with three overs to spare. P Prior to that, they met twice in the Asia Cup at in Karachi last summer. India won the first chasing 299; Pakistan the second having been set a mammoth 308 for victory. Today's encounter promises to be as thrilling.
email@example.com India v Pakistan, 4.30pm, ART Prime Sport