Cow Corner

Prepare for the greatest rivalry in cricket

Cow Corner

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A packed and vociferous crowd will witness the fiercest rivalry in cricket tomorrow as India host Pakistan at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali, Chandigarh, and it will be unlike anything seen anywhere else in the world.

England's Ashes rivalry with Australia is, without doubt, the most historic and established, but it has nothing of the intensity, ferocity, magnitude and sheer cultural significance of India-Pakistan.

Tomorrow's clash is set to be frankly monstrous as both sides chase a place in the World Cup final in the subcontinent, and a great deal of national identity, pride and honour will be at stake.

Cricket fever will hit a crescendo when the neighbours, who have fought three wars since their 1947 independence, meet in Mohali with the dreams of two cricket-crazy nations resting on their shoulders.

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Watching them from the stands will be the Prime Ministers of both countries, along with a large number of politicians, industrialists, celebrities and cricket fans lucky enough to grab a ticket.

If Mahendra Singh Dhoni wins the toss, that feat in itself will prompt a roar more deafening than any heard in an Ashes series, with each and every boundary being met with an ear-piercing response.

Make no mistake, there is a great deal of animosity between the two sides and each and every dropped catch, missed stumping and fumbled take from Kamran Akmal will be fervently greeted in equal measure.

The stage could well be perfectly set for the Little Master Sachin Tendulkar, the world's greatest batsman, who will be fiercely focused and determined in what is likely to be his final chance to play in a World Cup-winning side.

Tendy has plundered two tons and now has a maximum two chances left at this tournament to record a 100th international century before a home crowd.

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Outside the Pakistan camp, the clamour for Shoaib Akhtar's inclusion continues to grow, with the Rawalpindi Express having not played since Pakistan's loss to New Zealand in the group stages.

Media reports said he had fallen out of favour after an argument with wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal, who dropped Ross Taylor twice in one over. Understandable, no?

Taylor went on to score a match-winning century, but Shoaib appears to have paid the price.

Surely, Pakistan need their 35-year-old talisman among their ranks for one of the most important matches in the country's cricketing history?

Who do you think will win the big match tomorrow between India and Pakistan? Do you believe Pakistan should pick Shoaib? Who would Sri Lanka prefer to play, do you reckon? Post your views in the comments' section below...

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Meanwhile, Sri Lanka once again showed themselves to be utterly imperious on home turf as Kumar Sangakkara's side brushed past New Zealand in Colombo.

The Black Caps were not helped by key batsmen falling at crucial points in their innings: Jesse Ryder fell after drinks (not for the first time, it must be said), while Ross Taylor decided his job was done after defending in a Jonathan Trott-esque fashion.

But there are very few people who would say that Sri Lanka do not deserve to be in the final, and even less who could argue that the tournament is not better for having the buoyant co-hosts in the tournament's showpiece.

Do you think Sri Lanka will win the World Cup? Have your say below...

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SHOT OF THE DAY: Scott Styris may not be the best batsman - even of New Zealand's lower order - but the man with the face of an eagle unfurled the most glorious straight drive to give a shell-shocked Lasith Malinga the treatment his inswinging yorker did not deserve.

STAT OF THE DAY: New Zealand have now reached the semi-finals of the World Cup on six different occasions without advancing further. That's what you would call consistency.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "My top 5 worst haircuts in cricket 5. J Gillespie (pre 2000) 4. Doug Bollinger 3. Adam Hollioake (WI Tour 1998) 2. KP (Ashes 2005) 1. Malinga (WC 2011). (Adam Hollioake)

MANIC PARADE OF THE DAY: The legendary Muttiah Muralitharan, playing in his last World Cup match on Sri Lankan soil, was given a raucous and impromptu parade around the outfield to the delight of the jubilant home fans. It really was a glorious sight to behold.

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USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "There is no doubt for me that England's attack was the best in the tournament. I think the facts speak for themselves and we should be proud, not grumpy." (Clearly "facts" are now pretty subjective after having read Jackson's post.)

COMING UP: As if the second semi-final between India and Pakistan requires further hype and billing...

CAPTION COMPETITION: Graham Hampson wins our previous caption competition with his very apt and humorous offering - well done to you, sir.

Here is today's picture (from left to right, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Munaf Patel)...

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