The beer had not travelled too well from Indore, described as flat and tasteless by one group of discerning patrons who had travelled some way to watch the match. The samosas, crispy on the outside and flavourful on the inside, flew off the shelves at the concession stalls in the stands.
The approach to the ground experienced traffic disruptions because a politician was travelling to a nearby town. In the stands, in a box of their own were at least 13 members of a leading business family that also owns an Indian Premier League team.
The flags in the stands were saffron, white and green, and one had the old anthem Jeetna Hai Today emblazoned on it. The pitch, that was well grassed only two days before the game, was suddenly shorn, brown and almost tweed coloured.
Even the tournament organisers got into the act, announcing Virat Kohli’s arrival at the crease with a morphed image of a king presiding over his subjects, calling the Indian captain King Kohli.
But, no, this match was not being played in Nagpur or Kochi or Guwahati. This was India’s first match of ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, and South Africa would have been forgiven for wondering if the World Cup had suddenly turned into an entirely Indian affair.
Perhaps it was this confusion that caused Faf du Plessis, who won the toss, to choose to bat first. Having chased in two previous matches and lost them both, perhaps this was an attempt at checking whether three wrongs would make a right, since the whole world knows that two don’t suffice.
But, while you can control almost anything in the United Kingdom, the one thing you can count on to remain quintessentially English is the weather. As the clouds settled in a cottony carpet, tinged with grey but never threatening to dump their payload, Jasprit Bumrah licked his lips and set to work.
Bumrah, playing his first World Cup game, used the angles brilliantly, getting the odd ball to dart and reached into his Test-match experience to hit the kind of hard lengths that bring the fielders behind the bat into play.
Hashim Amla was sent back by extra bounce, Quinton de Kock looked for relief from pressure and nicked off and South Africa had literally and figuratively been pushed onto the back foot. And what better place to have a batting line-up with two wrist spinners at your disposal.
Yuzvendra Chahal, another newbie at this stage, got the ball to dip and swerve, turn and hold, picking away at the scabs of South Africa’s old wounds inflicted by spin bowling. What assistance Chahal was missing from the conditions he got from South Africa’s batsmen.
Rassie van der Dussen shaped to reverse sweep, found his front foot stuck in the mud and was bowled around his legs. Du Plessis, who was setting himself up for an innings that would lift his team, got to 38 before missing a straight one from the leggier and JP Duminy brought Kuldeep Yadav into the game by going back to a fall ball, trapped LBW to leave South Africa at 84 for 5.
The game was as good as done at this stage, but South Africa fought, stretching their score to 227.
The batsmen had given the team enough to bowl at, but only just. A searing spell from Kagiso Rabada breathed some life into the game, sending back Shikhar Dhawan early and creating enough pressure for a disciplined Kohli to be caught out by a lifter from Andile Phehlukwayo. At 54 for 2, there was a small window open for South Africa, but Rohit Sharma slowly but surely ensured it was shut.
Rohit played and missed several times early on, but this was only to be expected given that this had the distinct feel of Test match attritional cricket rather than slam-bang ODI mayhem. He even survived a close LBW shout, reprieved when the on-field umpire ruled it not out, surviving the review, but once he had bedded down, Rohit pressed on to complete the sheer Indianness of the day.
Stepping down the pitch to the spinners, Rohit made clean contact, sending the ball deep into the stands. Against the quick bowlers, the only time he showed aggression was when the risk of nicking off was minimised, attacking the short ball. The lack of any kind of pressure from the scoreboard, and the fact that Rabada could only bowl 10 overs, allowed Rohit to choose the tempo he would bat at, through the innings.
When he reached an inevitable century off the 128th ball he had faced, Rohit had allowed 76 dot balls to be bowled to him. He had made up, with 10 fours and two sixes, but he will be the first to admit that the stars would not always align for him in the manner in which they had on Wednesday in Southampton.
Unless, of course, this English World Cup ends up being one extended Indian summer.
This article was first published in the Economic Times newspaper