‘Friendly Games’ have an edge when India play Pakistan at cricket

The Commonwealth Games like to be referred to as the ‘Friendly Games’ and up until Sunday even India and Pakistan cricketers had bought into the idea.

Women’s cricket is making its Games debut in Birmingham and because of that there has been an all-for-one pioneering camaraderie built into the competition dialing down what is arguably world sport’s most intense rivalry.

But with a path to the medal round opening up for the winners, sisterhood was put aside at Edgbaston Cricket Ground as India thumped Pakistan, who remain winless and dropped to the bottom of the Group A standings.

Chasing 100 to win the rain-shortened match, India reached their target with 38 balls to spare as Smriti Mandhana smashed an unbeaten 63 to secure an eight-wicket victory.

Earlier, Pakistan overcame the loss of Iram Javed for a duck as fellow opening batter Muneeba Ali struck a 30-ball 32, but a collapse meant they were restricted to 99 in their 18 overs.

Having both lost their Games opener India and Pakistan arrived at the stadium knowing another defeat would just about end any medal hopes, putting more weight on a fixture that never needs any.

“Whenever we get the opportunity to play against Pakistan we always want to do well,” said India’s Harmanpreet Kaur. “This game was very important to win, not just because it was Pakistan.”

India can clinch a semi-final spot with a win over Barbados in their final Group A match on Wednesday while Pakistan need victory over Australia and plenty of help in the tiebreaker scenarios to keep their slim hopes of advancing alive.

The top two teams in the group will be joined in the final four by two from Group B which is made up of England, South Africa, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

While the India and Pakistan rivalry is centred around men’s cricket, the women fully understand its significance and their increasing role in it.

With Birmingham recognised as one of Britain’s most diverse cities with large Indian and Pakistani communities the crowd at the Edgbaston oval was the largest of the tournament.

The atmosphere outside the ground on a drizzly morning was more family outing than the hysteria that usually follows a men’s meeting as fathers and mothers with children in tow soaked up the fun.

“It’s just a game at the end of the day but a good game,” summed up one father in an India jersey accompanied by four young girls.

The occasion was not lost on the players or the fans, the cheering was loud and constant.

At the conclusion no one was leaving Egbaston and setting themselves on fire, as distraught fans have done in the past when results have not gone their way, but the smiles on the faces of India supporters signalled their trip home was going to be a more up beat one.

“It is always a special feeling when you play against Pakistan but I would like to say it is just another game and not like, “ohhhh Pakistan”,” said Sneh Rana. “But it is a good game always.”

“It is a special feeling.”

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