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Visiting Indian Cricket Team Beats Pakistan - 2004-03-13

In a contest loaded with political significance, the visiting Indian cricket team has beaten its Pakistani host by a slim margin of five runs. Saturday's game marks the first time teams representing the rival nations have faced off in Pakistan since 1989.

Favorite India inched by the Pakistani national team during Saturday's match in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

The event drew the attention of millions of Indian and Pakistani television viewers in addition to more than 30,000 spectators at the venue.

The game opens India's cricket tour of Pakistan. It's the first time in 14 years that either team has played in the other's country.

India and Pakistan are long-time rivals, and have fought three major wars since their independence from Britain in 1947.

After coming to the brink of armed conflict again in 2002, the two neighbors began a series of peace gestures, and this year opened talks aimed at improving relations and settling disputes.

While past matches in third countries have sometimes sparked violence by fans, Saturday's game was generally peaceful.

Pakistani legislator Imran Khan, also the former captain of his country's national cricket team, says the atmosphere of Indo-Pakistani games often complements the state of relations.

He says that when relations are improving, as is the case now, cricket matches tend to highlight the ties between the two countries.

"On the other hand, if there's tension on the borders, then cricket actually does the opposite," said Imran Khan. "The tension increases. The cricket ground becomes a battlefield."

With cricket a national obsession in both nations, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf addressed his country Friday, urging citizens to remain peaceful during the series and to remember that these matches are only games.