Sunday 9 June 2019 8:48 pm

Indian fans make themselves at home in The Oval amid thumping win over Australia


I am a sports writer at City A.M, covering football, cricket, tennis and more. Get in touch: felix.keith@cityam.com

I am a sports writer at City A.M, covering football, cricket, tennis and more. Get in touch: felix.keith@cityam.com

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There was a fun game to be played at the Cricket Wold Cup match at The Oval today: spot the Australian.

Canary yellow shirts were an endangered species inside the stadium, bright dots amid a sea of raucous, passionate, pulsating Indian blue.

Even when you thought you’d located a group of Aussie supporters there was no guarantee, with those sporting the yellow of Indian favourite MS Dhoni’s IPL side Chennai Super Kings confusing matters further.

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You can try to quantify and explain the sight through India’s love of cricket, reputation for travelling in numbers and native presence in London, but until you experience it first hand it’s hard to comprehend.

Every action, whether significant or not, prompts an outpouring of emotion ranging from the mild – a roar following a comfortable single or obvious wide call – to the ear-splitting – a glimpse of deity Sachin Tendulkar, a batting milestone or towering six.

Partisan doesn’t even come close to describing it.   

India's Shikhar Dhawan plays a shot during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between India and Australia at The Oval in London on June 9, 2019. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE        (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Shikhar Dhawan won the man of the match award for his 117 from 109 balls
Shikhar Dhawan was the first focus of the home crowd’s affection, entertaining them with his unique brand of slashing cuts, lofted drives and brutal power. His 17th one-day international century was a bright start, but the Indian faithful were just getting started.

After a drummer had whipped the OCS Stand into a frenzy and Hardik Pandya had lit the touchpaper with an assault of 48 from 27 balls, it was time for the true objects of affection to take centre stage.

Virat Kohli’s 82 may have been oddly subdued, his innings beginning with a revered hush, but he still treated his adoring fans to two pieces of pure talent only he is capable of: an effortless hit over the legside and eye-popping, inside-out drive over extra cover for sixes, both off the rapid Mitchell Starc.

Never one to be outdone, Dhoni then swung another Starc delivery over square leg and into the grateful hands of an Indian fan sitting in the very back row of the OCS Stand.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Virat Kohli of India celebrates after catching out Nathan Coulter-Nile of Australia during the Group Stage match of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 between India and Australia at The Oval on June 9, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)
Virat Kohli is the main object of the fans’ affection

Set a whopping 353 for victory, Australia crawled out of the blocks before Kedhar Jadhav’s bullet throw ran out Aaron Finch, woke up the crowd and brought boo-target Steve Smith to the crease.

With Australia stuck in a bizarre match-losing accumulation stage there was an early-evening lull before Bhuvneshwar Kumar struck twice in the 40th over to reignite the roars.

As last hope Glenn Maxwell miscued one into the gloomy skies and the game slipped inexorably away from Australia, it was clear it would be the energetic Indian fans taking the spoils onto the streets of south London. 

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