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Heartbreak in Pakistan after cricket World Cup loss to India

Pakistan's loss on Sunday follows the major humiliation of defeat to co-hosts USA earlier in the week (Aamir QURESHI)
Pakistan's loss on Sunday follows the major humiliation of defeat to co-hosts USA earlier in the week (Aamir QURESHI)

Pakistan fans were dejected Monday after a loss to arch-rivals India compounded their cricket T20 World Cup misery, with some declaring their campaign a lost cause after only two matches.

"Cricket is finished for Pakistan," one spectator told his companions in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, among fans who abandoned a big-screen viewing event before the final ball was bowled.

As night fell on Sunday, crowds had surged into the 15,000-seat Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium hoping to see a victory for captain Babar Azam's beleaguered side in a match halfway around the globe in New York.

However a low-scoring thriller saw India beat Pakistan by six runs on a tricky batting surface, and in the moments after midnight supporters hurled plastic bottles at the screens in frustration.

"Fate had something else in mind," 26-year-old Ahsan Ullah told AFP, as resigned fans streamed out of the stadium. "Right now our hearts are a little broken."

The loss follows the major humiliation of Pakistan's defeat to USA on Thursday, with the co-host debutants beating the 2022 finalists and 2009 champions in a Super Over thriller in Texas.

- 'Used to embarrassment' -

Pakistan and India's cricket rivalry is one of the world's great international sporting feuds.

The game is by far the most popular sport in both countries, which have a combined population of more than 1.6 billion.

Matches attract staggering numbers of viewers -- though the sides face each other only in larger tournaments and in third countries because of long-standing political tensions.

Sunday's match was the 13th time the nuclear-armed neighbours have clashed in cricket's shortest format, with India now dominant as the victors of ten of those face-offs.

The rivalry runs so deep that India's national anthem was muted on the big screens at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, where queues snaked outside ahead of a rain-delayed coin toss.

Green spotlights raked the skies as the match began and Pakistan flags whipped back and forth in stands named after storied players like Imran Khan and Shoaib Akhtar.

Whistles, chants and cheers blared in the early overs, before midnight passed and a sober mood took hold as Pakistan struggled to chase down India's 119 runs.

Asked for his diagnosis of the team's ills, Mohammad Hisham Raja -- seeking solace at a nearby restaurant after the match -- responded with one word: "batting".

"Maybe we got too much in our heads," the 24-year-old said. "It's not an embarrassment because we're used to it now."

"Cricket is an escape for us -- from our daily routine, from our daily lives, from things that cause us problems," he added. "But there are more problems in this."

"I think once they come back they'll see how dissatisfied the population is, so they will obviously make some big changes," he added, predicting Azam would be ousted from his post.

- 'Choked' -

"Pakistan choked in the final sequence of their World Cup 2024 clash with India to somehow surrender a tie they dominated for large parts of the game," said the website of the English-language Dawn newspaper.

"For the first time, it seems Pakistanis are struggling to find comfort in the hopes of a 'next time'."

Pakistan next face Canada in New York on Thursday and then take on Ireland in Florida on Sunday.

They may still advance to the Super Eight in the tournament co-hosted by the USA and West Indies, with a final slated for Barbados on 29 June.

But 32 year-old Abdul Rasheed, among the final straggling fans in the stadium, predicted "a comeback is going to be very difficult".

"Previously, things were great but now I don't know what's going on," chimed in 17-year-old Adan Mustafa. "The future doesn't seem bright."

jts/des