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India Celebrates Cricket Victory Over Pakistan - 2003-03-01


India has won a crucial cricket match against Pakistan in the World Cup being held in South Africa. It was the first encounter on the cricket pitch between the two countries in nearly three years. The match was played against the backdrop of intense political hostility between the archrivals.

Hundreds of thousands of cricket fans across villages, towns, and cities in India exploded with joy as the winning shot was played. The sounds of celebration resounded everywhere, people set off firecrackers, danced in the streets, distributed sweets and popped open champagne.

It was no ordinary cricket match. Feverishly excited fans in India and Pakistan had termed it a do or die contest, equating victory or defeat with national pride and honor.

Pakistan set India a challenging target, but Indian batsmen were able to put together a winning total with a steady game. Fans in India could not believe it.

We are so happy, that we can't express our feelings," said one fan.

"It's fantastic!" exclaimed another. "We beat Pakistan! It's unbelievable!"

A third fan said "I am so proud, so happy."

But police used tear gas in Ahmedabad city in the western state of Gujarat, where some clashes were reported between Hindus and Muslims, after news of Indias victory came in.

Both countries share a passion for cricket. But their intense political hostility has always had overtones in their cricket encounters and fans regard them as miniature battles.

Saturday's encounter became even more charged. The two cricket teams were facing each other for the first time since June 2000, because the Indian government has suspended one to one contests with Pakistan, except at multi-team tournaments.

In that time, the relationship between the two rivals has deteriorated, with the countries coming close to war last year.

During the match, life in both countries came to a virtual standstill, as young and old watched what many called a heart-stopping contest.

Through the eight-hour game, there were cheers, groans and nail biting suspense. In the Indian capital, several movie theaters telecast the match instead of screening films. Giant television screens were put up in hotels, restaurants, pubs and even the Calcutta subway. Students preparing for crucial exams put their books aside to watch the contest.

In a show of goodwill, the Indian and Pakistani players shook hands before the game began, and appealed to people to treat it as just another match. But the plea failed to dampen the charged atmosphere.

India has now qualified for the next round of the World Cup, but Pakistan's chances of winning the tournament have suffered a blow.

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