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India defeats Pakistan by 6 runs in a match at Cricket World Cup

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yankees versus the Red Sox, Ohio State versus Michigan - sure, those are legendary sports rivalries, but the biggest in the world might be India versus Pakistan in cricket. So when the two countries met yesterday in New York for the T20 Cricket World Cup, it was a little tense and quite the scene. Here's reporter Sally Herships.

SALLY HERSHIPS, BYLINE: It's not even 9 A.M., and the crowd entering the stadium is already huge. Fans like Abhishek Sonkar and his wife are pumped up.

ABHISHEK SONKAR: We flew all the way from San Francisco with a six-month-old baby because we want to be here, and we want to be part of this game.

HERSHIPS: Whose idea was it to bring the baby?

SONKAR: Of course it was mine (laughter).

HERSHIPS: It feels like there's an unofficial dress code here. Only two colors are allowed - emerald green to support Pakistan and blue, like Sankar and his wife are wearing, to support India. Also allowed - goofy wigs, homemade signs and fun sunglasses.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Ladies and gentlemen, the first official action of today's match...

HERSHIPS: Cricket is the second-most popular sport in the world. It's second only to soccer. The number of cricket fans in India alone is larger than the population of the entire United States. Soon, we get a tip that buses carrying the players will be arriving. Fans are lining up along metal barricades, getting their phones ready to take selfies of the moment. Cameron, slam is 75. He's from DC.

You want to tell me who you're supporting here today?

KAMRAN ASLAM: Pakistan. Always Pakistan.

HERSHIPS: But more importantly, Aslam is a cricket fan. He wants the sport to grow more popular here. He knows that could take a while.

ASLAM: For instance, if you were to bring baseball to Pakistan, how would we react to that? You understand? So it's going to take time.

HERSHIPS: The Brits introduced the game, and it stayed popular in ex-British colonies - just not this one. We got baseball. But last week, Team USA beat Pakistan, a country where a former prime minister, Imran Khan, was a star cricket player. Losing to the U.S. was not a good look for Pakistan, but Aslam says it's a good look for cricket.

ASLAM: It's cricket that has won today.

HERSHIPS: India and Pakistan have a complicated history. But today, politics has been pushed aside. It's all about batting and bowling. Madhavi Devasthale and Meenal Chadha are standing nearby. They're holding up a sign. It's neatly printed in large red and green letters on white cardboard.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: It says, rivals on the field, but united in passion.

HERSHIPS: But they're both wearing Team India jerseys.

So you're bringing a message of peace, except for the game.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2 = GENERAL PUBLIC: Yes. Yes, yes.

HERSHIPS: And this is a game. There are two teams and only one gets to win. Today, that's India. Final score - 119 India, 113 Pakistan. Pakistan isn't out of the championship yet. On Tuesday, they play Canada. But even if you're not familiar with cricket, one rule is easy. It feels good to win.

For NPR News, I'm Sally Herships. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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