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Indian fans bring the noise as CWC semifinal spills over to reserve day

New Zealand’s Kane Williamson won the toss under clouds and batted first because that is what conventional wisdom dictated.

Ne Zealand vs India in the Cricket World Cup 2019 semi-final. Picture: ICC.

MANCHESTER - “Don’t you touch me! I’ll knock your f** head off!”

The stocky man with the Indian shirt and dark glasses jabbed a finger in the face of the rotund man with the New Zealand cap who responded with a wayward haymaker that thankfully missed its target. It was a shocking outburst of violence that quickly dissipated in the current of human bodies washing over the tram tracks outside the Old Trafford Cricket Ground.

It was 10 am; far too early on a gloomy Tuesday morning for such overt displays of machismo. But this was India in a World Cup semifinal and the convention had been cast aside in a fervour of klaxons and drums and chants.

New Zealand’s Kane Williamson won the toss under clouds and batted first because that is what conventional wisdom dictated. But this was India in a World Cup semifinal and that decision looked a poor one as Bhuvneshwar Kumar got one to seam appreciably into Martin Guptill’s front pad. A huge appeal reverberated around the ground that was almost entirely filled with Indian fans.

Kohli reviewed but the batter survived. This was a sign of things to come.

India kept New Zealand under their thumb for 46.1 overs until rain brought an end to the day’s play with their score reading a sorry 211/5. In that time, Williamson scored 67 before Yuzvendra Chahal forced an uncharacteristically poor shot which provided catching practice for backward point.

Ross Taylor reached the same score as his skipper and would resume on Wednesday after remaining unbeaten. No other Kiwi offered resistance as every Indian bowler collected a wicket.

All the while the teeming mass of blue and shocking orange created a maelstrom of noise and colour and delirium. Sachin Tendulkar stepped onto a balcony at one point and a portion of the crowd exploded for 10 minutes straight, baying for affection and spiralling into hysteria when the diminutive demigod waved a nonchalant hand in their direction.

One fan was ejected under the watch of yellow vested security guards. Another fan needed to be restrained from launching an assault on his compatriot. Most fans were well behaved but unconfined, celebrating dot balls like wickets and celebrating wickets like individual World Cup triumphs.

It is difficult to describe the sensation of being surrounded by a throng of Indian fans. They hum like an industrious beehive, beseeching their heroes who are worshipped like deities to deliver them a victory. It was contagious. You know that the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have the International Cricket Council (ICC) in their back pocket but, despite yourself, you just couldn't help but partake in their revelry.

Many remained even as the rain fell on Manchester and the covers stayed on. Even when the news was announced that the game had been called there were clutches of supporters chanting the names of Dhoni and Kohli and Bhuvi and Bumrah.

They would be back again on Wednesday, there was no doubt about that. They could sense another final berth on the horizon.

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