Houston: Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne's grand plan of taking cricket to the USA is fast gathering momentum and arousing curiosity among people, who seem fascinated by the sport's similarity to baseball.
Despite Diwali night, chaotic traffic and rain, the baseball stadium, which was transformed into an oval pitch for the game, was thronged by over 26,000 fans for the second Cricket All-Stars game, not just from Houston and other cities in Texas, but as far as from Chicago, Arkansas, Okhlahoma and Colorado.
The sprawling venue, Minute Maid Park, the official field for Houston's baseball team Astros, had never seen such crowds lately, cheering, dancing, holding flags, and chanting "Sachin Sachin", till past midnight.
"Had it not been Diwali and organisers had planned it on a weekend, the crowd would have been double in Houston which is home to over 100,000 Indians," said Anil, an ardent Tendulkar fan.
"Words can't describe how amazing the whole thing has been! Hope the Cricket All Stars make it an annual ritual. It has been an incredible Diwali", he added.
A 60,000 pound, 74-foot-long pitch, specially manufactured and trucked here from Indianapolis, was lowered into place just behind second base and the triangular field to give it a look and feel of a cricket field.
The bases and home plate were removed, the pitching mound flattened and the outfield firmed up, all in readiness for one night and both Warne and Tendulkar were very pleased with the field and arrangements.
Tendulkar was the undisputed favourite for the largely Asian crowd at a baseball stadium, but it was Warne's Warriors, who weaved some old-time magic for an amazing score of 262 for five to win the match by 57 runs, with 21 sixes and 22 fours in 20 overs.
Tendulkar's Blasters managed a total of 208, with 17 sixes and 10 fours.
"I felt honoured to be in the presence of these great cricket legends -- Sachin, Lara, Sehwag, Sangakkara, Walsh, Warne, Ponting, Pollock, Ganguly, Kallis, Shoaib, Wasim Akram, Rhodes, Akram to name a few!! Felt like the good old days!," a fan said.
"The whole idea of Cricket All Stars is that, to try to get as many nations together to celebrate this. It was electrifying," Tendulkar said.
"I thought it was fantastic, the atmosphere was amazing," said Warne after the match. The hotel, food, music, crowd, atmosphere -- it was nothing not to like. How could you not enjoy that experience today? It was fantastic," he added.
Tendulkar thanked the cheering crowd for the support, saying during the post-match presentation that "the match has been really special. We thoroughly enjoyed being here. Houston, you were brilliant."
Tendulkar said he hopes to make the series an annual event as they want to bring cricket in every home in America.
Warne said some people had been sceptical on how the retired players will perform but "we didn't take it easy, it was very competitive. The fact that the players were retired did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd."
Fawaz, an engineer, said, "as long as Sachin is on the field, it does not matter whether the players are retired or not. It is a dream to see play live."
Bobby Vasquez, also known as the Astros Train Guy, said he is just excited to see something new coming to Houston and he hopes he can enhance the experience for cricket fans in the area and those who are making the trip.
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