Of conspiracy theories and chewed up fingernails!

Of conspiracy theories and chewed up fingernails!

Their only hope of making the semifinals of the Champions Trophy resting with Pakistan beating Australia at SuperSport Park so that they could sneak through on the nett run rate, India kept abreast of the latest developments there, soaking in the fascinating contest unfolding with hearts thumping and minds racing.

Towards the end of the West Indies innings that ended almost an hour ahead of schedule, India were thrown a lifeline of sorts as Pakistan’s bowlers staged a dramatic fightback to eat away at the Australian middle-order; by the time their own chase of West Indies’ 129 was two overs old, though, India had been eliminated, Australia’s ninth-wicket pair of Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz edging them home off the last ball of the match.

Throughout the day, while physically being present at the Wanderers, the Indian players, fans and the media was focussed more on what was happening at a venue less than an hour’s drive away. Pakistan’s batsmen were castigated for going slow in the morning despite having wickets in hand as Indian supporters began to see a non-existent design of deliberate passivity from the neighbours, their 205 for six in 50 overs seen as an effort singularly lacking in intent.

The truth was that the Centurion surface, with its uneven bounce, was hardly a stroke-making ally that became progressively difficult to survive on, as a relieved Ricky Ponting admitted at the end of a game that left him virtually nail-less.

“I had chewed all my fingernails off,” said Ponting. “It was tough to score quickly, the bounce was inconsistent and it spun at the end, so we were a little lucky to restrict them to that total.”

One team’s luck became another’s misfortune. On such slender threads do some huge outcomes rest.