Ton-up Sharma sets up tough chase for Pakistan
MANCHESTER: India’s Rohit Sharma hit his second hundred in three innings to leave bitter rivals Pakistan needing to make World Cup history on Sunday.
Sharma’s 140 was the centrepiece of India’s 336 for five at Old Trafford as they looked to make it seven wins out of seven against Pakistan at the World Cup. The most any side have made batting second to win a World Cup match is Ireland’s 329 for seven against England at Bangalore in 2011.
Meanwhile, Virat Kohli became the quickest player to 11,000 one-day international runs during his innings of 77. The India captain reached the landmark in his 222nd innings, smashing compatriot Sachin Tendulkar’s previous record of 276 innings.
Pakistan left-arm quick Mohammad Amir was his side’s only threat with three for 47 despite two early warnings for running on the pitch.
Sharma and KL Rahul (57) got India off to a fine start with a first-wicket stand of 137 after Pakistan won the toss. Their efforts were all the more impressive as they were opening together for the first time at this level.
Regular opener Shikhar Dhawan was sidelined with a thumb injury sustained while making a century in a victory over champions Australia last time out. “I won’t lie I was nervous. There was hype about this game,” Rahul said. “Conditions haven’t been the best, the wicket has been under covers so we were thinking 280 was a good score. To get over 300 gives us a boost.”
Sharma, who made 122 in India’s opening win over South Africa and 57 against Australia, went to fifty in just 34 balls against Pakistan. He got there in style with a six over long-on and a cut four, off successive deliveries from recalled leg-spinner Shadab Khan.
Rahul also brought his fifty up with a six, against off-spinner Shoaib Malik. But he fell soon afterwards to Wahab Riaz who struck one ball after receiving two official warnings in consecutive deliveries for running on the pitch. Riaz, bowling from around the wicket, had Rahul chipping a tame catch to mid-off.
Sharma went into the 90s with an extraordinary square-cut six over paceman Hasan Ali. Then a single off Shadab saw him to an 85-ball hundred including three sixes and nine fours. It was Sharma’s 24th ODI century.
But a quickfire stand of 98 with Kohli ended when Sharma, trying a needlessly extravagant scoop, flicked Hasan straight to Wahab at short fine leg. An annoyed Sharma slapped his bat against his pads in frustration.
Rain stopped play with India 305 for four in the 47th over, with Kohli then 71 not out. But to the relief of tournament organisers, as well as a capacity crowd, with a World Cup record four matches having already been washed out, play resumed after 55 minutes with no overs lost.
Kohli added just six more runs to his score before, trying to hook Amir, he ‘walked’ for a catch behind by Pakistan captain and wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed despite replays appearing to show he didn’t make contact with the ball.
Pakistan are currently ninth in the 10-team table and realistically need to beat India if they are to maintain their hopes of a top-four finish from the round-robin group stage that will see them into the semi-finals.
More than a billion fans were set to watch the match on television, while there were some 800,000 applications for tickets to watch the match at an Old Trafford ground where the maximum capacity is 26,000.