Saturday, December 4

Did cricket match make history



India’s World Cup clash against Pakistan could be the most watched cricket match in history – with an estimated one billion tuning in.

The Manchester rain intervened but it could not dampen the spirits of the arch-rivals, with fans travelling thousands of miles to Old Trafford.

Almost 800,000 applications for just 23,500 seats made tickets the hottest in town. Yet those who missed out on the cauldron of noise, colour and flags joined the huge global TV audience.

David Richardson, International Cricket Council chief executive, said: “There were at least 500 million watching on the day. Yet that’s just on TV. Digital channels and other platforms will take it to a billion.”

The previous record was for India’s 2011 World Cup final against Sri Lanka when 558 million tuned in.

But this latest figure is a cricket landmark, even eclipsing the 530 million who watched the Moon landing live in 1969.

To Manchester itself yesterday, billionaire tycoons flew in by private jet and sat alongside Bollywood stars to make sure they were part of the party atmosphere.

Despite rain-leaden skies, Pakistan fans came by open top bus – one even arriving on horseback.

The two countries had come close to war earlier this year, yet this only added to the intense rivalry between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Wars between the pair have limited their on-pitch meetings, and they have not played a Test against each other since 2007.

But yesterday was all about cricket. India-mad Ankur Bajpayee, 39, had taken a 16-hour flight from Johannesburg.

Pakistan supporter Hassan Ghani made a 10,562-mile (16,998 km) round trip from Los Angeles for the match he could not miss.

However, Pakistan had never beaten India in the World Cup, and they were defeated by India’s 89 runs.

Lancashire County Cricket Club, which owns Old Trafford, had pulled out all the stops to welcome its Asian guests.

A special menu in the hospitality boxes, which cost up to £1,800 a person ($AU3,297), offered halal and vegetarian dishes.

The Olympics and football World Cups dominate top sports TV audiences, with London 2012 drawing a record 3.6 billion while the 2018 World Cup in Russia was seen by 3.57 billion.