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Johannesburg buzzing as never before

The atmosphere in the suburb of Fordsburg here is electric hours before the inaugural Twenty20 World Championships final between India and Pakistan at the Wanderers Stadium on Monday.

Home to a large contingent of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi migrants, and the hub of sub-continental restaurants in the city, locals have joined expatriates and scores of tourists, mainly from India, who were already celebrating the fact that both South Asian countries had made it to the title clash.

The friendly rivalry very evident, most fans are still revelling in the success of both teams against champion teams like Australia and South Africa.

Restaurants are packed, especially places like the Al Makkah Restaurant, where the Bangladeshi team had supper soon after their arrival in the country, much to the delight of diners.

Rumours that the Pakistan team would put in an appearance on Sunday night after the traditional Taraawi prayers in Ramadan had fans waiting until well past midnight - only to be disappointed.

South Africa's disgrace at the hands of the Indians last week seems to have been all but forgotten by the locals, who are now rooting mainly for India, while many expatriate Pakistanis and the large Bangladeshi community in the area are firmly backing Pakistan.

"It cost us a fortune and we have made some travel agent very happy for the package we took to be able to watch every game India played in Durban," said Amit Mohanlal of Ahmedabad, who is leading a group of 12 to South Africa for the tournament.

"To be honest, we expected to at least see India reach the semi-finals, but now being able to watch the final with our young boys who have done us proud is going to be an unforgettable experience for us. We have arranged for some extra champagne on our flight home, as we think the boys may be on the same flight with us and we are going to celebrate with them."

Fordsburg is awash with flags, Pakistani ones having a slight edge over India because of the larger Pakistani and Bangladeshi population.

One bemused local, Haroon Patel, said as he ducked under a large Pakistani flag being waved by a fan that he wished there could be something like this regularly.

"I have been coming here with my family for years every weekend, and I've never seen the place buzzing this like this. Given that it's Ramadan when the crowds are much smaller, this is just amazing. We're leaving now because we have to fast, but even though it's well past midnight, looks like these guys are going to celebrate until the match and beyond too!"

At one of the many street-stalls selling Hindi film DVDs and music, hawker Ramesh Mathura proudly displays four tickets he had acquired for the final when bookings opened.

"I share a room with five others, but I'm not going back there, as I'm convinced one of the guys will try to steal my tickets," Mathura joked as he hugged his friend Ramu Gopi who is going to the Wanderers with him.

Tickets for the final were sold out months ago. A record turnout is expected at the Wanderers because this Monday is a public holiday in South Africa.

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