The Pakistan-Afghanistan match at the 2019 World Cup turned out to be more explosive than anticipated as fans clashed on an emotionally and politically charged day at Headingley on Saturday.
Police were forced to intervene after fights broke out between Afghanistan and Pakistan supporters in Leeds.
The match was sitting on a tinderbox with Asian News International agency reporting that billboards were put up around Birmingham with the message “Help end enforced disappearances in Pakistan.”
The situation got out of hand after a plane flew a banner over the ground with the message: “Justice for Balochistan.”
Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest province, bordering Afghanistan and Iran and struggling with violence.
AFP reported West Yorkshire police as saying: “At 11:55 am today police received reports of some trouble outside the ground linked to people trying to get in. Officers attended to disperse the group without any issues and remained on patrol in the area.”
The International Cricket Council said the tournament should not be used as a platform for political statements.
“We are aware of some scuffles among a minority of fans and are currently working with the venue security team and the local police force, West Yorkshire Police, to ensure there are no further incidents,” the ICC said in a statement.
“We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and will work with West Yorkshire police to deal with and understand why this has happened and to ensure it does not happen again.”
One month is a long time as England have just realised with the hosts’ hopes of qualifying for the semi-final of the 2019 ICC World Cup now hanging in the balance.
An expectant nation waited as Eoin Morgan and his men began their World Cup campaign exactly a month ago as the No1 ranked ODI team and heavy favourites for the crown.
The script was followed as they swatted aside the South African challenge in the tournament opener but three defeats in six games has left them on the verge of an embarrassing exit before the semi-finals.
Instead, it is India who now hold the No1 rank and it is them who will feel like the home side when they take on England in a blockbuster clash at Edgbaston on Sunday.
PRESSURE TELLING ON ENGLAND
Three defeats in the tournament while chasing have exposed the mental vulnerabilities of the power-packed English side who were racking up 350-plus totals for fun over the last two years.
The latest loss to Australia where they crumbled in a chase of 286 has now put England in a precarious spot. A loss against India might not close the doors on them mathematically but it will definitely be another nail in the coffin.
The hosts’ defeats have brought their own scrutiny from the media and former players alike with the likes of Michael Vaughan questioning the team’s mental fortitude. The pressure is now on England to respond and reaffirm their title credentials no matter how much the likes of Jonny Bairstow might try to deny it.
The situation is fast turning dire for Morgan’s men and they will be hoping explosive opener Jason Roy is declared fit in time for Sunday’s clash.
INDIA LOOK TO SEAL THE DEAL
While Australia are the first side to qualify for the semi-final, the Indians have been equally impressive, if not more, in what has been an unbeaten campaign so far.
With five wins in six games along with a no-result against New Zealand, the Indians are sitting pretty in second spot in the table and will confirm their place in the semi-final should they win on Sunday.
Virat Kohli and his men have been dominant for the most part bar one clash against Afghanistan where they were given a scare.
It has very much been a team effort from the Men in Blue who will turn out in their orange away kit for the first time in the tournament on Sunday.
None of their batsmen or bowlers feature in the top-five leading run-scorers/wicket-takers in the World Cup but they have still managed to stitch together an impressive run.
A big part of the team’s success has been their bowling unit which is the most economical of all 10 sides in the competition.
SHANKAR GETS KOHLI APPROVAL
One area of concern still for India despite their unbeaten run is the No4 spot which has once again opened up since the injury to Shikhar Dhawan.
With KL Rahul moving up the order, it is all-rounder Vijay Shankar who has been preferred in the role but he has mostly been a passenger so far.
Shankar did get two wickets with the ball in the win over Pakistan but has been largely anonymous otherwise. While the clamour for the inclusion of Rishabh Pant or Dinesh Karthik in his stead has grown, Kohli is placing his faith in Shankar for now.
“I personally felt he (Shankar) looked really solid. There’s not much to be tinkered. Sometimes in cricket you just need a little luck to get from 30 to 60, and then you can play a defining knock for the team,” Kohli said on the eve of the England clash.
“He’s very close to that and we are very confident that he’s going to end up playing that kind of knock for us,” the India skipper added.
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood.
India: KL Rahul, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.
India, the only undefeated team at the world cup, prepared on Saturday for their much-awaited clash against hosts England at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Given an India win would keep teams like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka alive in the tournament, the match will be an unusual occasion where fans from across the sub-continent could be rooting for Virat Kohli’s team on Sunday.
Kohli himself preferred to rest on the pre-match day, given it was an optional training for the team.
MS Dhoni and the player designated to take over his spot, Rishab Pant, were seen practicing their batting.