Manchester, June 16 (IANS) India’s vice-captain Rohit Sharma struck his 24th ODI hundred as India was placed in a comfortable position against Pakistan in their heavyweight World Cup clash on Sunday.
Rohit looked in sublime touch from the word go and brought up his third century in World Cups in vintage fashion. He got to his 100 in 85 balls, hitting nine fours and three sixes.
K.L. Rahul gave him good company at the other end before being dismissed. The pair, opening together for the first time, broke a 23-year-old record set by Sachin Tendulkar and Navjot Singh Sidhu for the highest opening partnership in a World Cup match against Pakistan.
Tendulkar and Sidhu had shared a 90-run stand for the opening wicket in the 1996 World Cup in Bengaluru. India went on to post 287 before winning the match by 37 runs.
Rohit and Rahul broke the record in the 16th over with the latter getting out on 57, spooning a Wahab Riaz fullish delivery to Babar Azam at covers.
Rohit helped the duo get the landmark with a cut against leg-spinner Shadab Khan.
The duo shared a 100-plus stand for the opening wicket, becoming, in the process, the first Indian pair to do so against Pakistan in a World Cup tie.
Rohit led the charge as he brought up his 50 in just 34 deliveries with the help of six fours and two sixes.
In the absence of injured Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit allowed Rahul to settle down and played the aggressor’s role from the get-go.
The 32-year old was lucky to survive a run out chance in the 11th over when a hesitation between him and Rahul saw Rohit way out of his crease, as Shadab Khan did superbly well to pick up the ball one-hand but got the direction of the throw wrong.
In the next over, Rohit rubbed salt into his wound by tonking the spinner for a four and a six off consecutive deliveries to bring up his half century.
Rahul, who got his fifty with a six off Shoaib Malik, looked in good touch once he saw off the initial phase.
At the other end, for the 27-year-old Karnataka batsman it was always going to be a daunting task to fill into Dhawan’s shoes who is a pillar for Virat Kohli’s side at the top.
Rahul’s innings was laced with three fours and two sixes as the pair added 136 runs for the opening wicket.
At the other end, there was no stopping Rohit as he continued his rich vein of form in the competition. Rohit got to his hundred by milking Shadab for a single.
His wife, Ritika Sajdeh, was there in the stands to applaud him, a broad smile hugging her cheeks, as the dashing right-hander raised his bat.
Rohit also got past M.S. Dhoni for the most number of sixes by an Indian batsman in international cricket when he hit Hasan Ali over the deep fine-leg boundary in the sixth over.
This is also only the fourth time a hundred-run partnership has been forged by India batsmen against arch-rivals Pakistan in World Cups.
Mohammad Kaif and Sachin Tendulkar became the first pair in the 2003 World Cup while Shikhar Dhawan-Virat Kohli and Virat Kohli-Suresh Raina did so in the 2015 World Cup.
Rohit, in his superb form this World Cup, has now joined an elite list of cricketers, becoming only the fourth player to aggregate 2,000 runs in One-Day Internationals against Australia in India’s last game after their tie against New Zealand was washed off.
Rohit, along with Sachin Tendulkar, Sir Viv Richards and Desmond Haynes complete the list.
The Mumbai batsman notched up the mark in his 37th innings against Australia — the fastest to do so, and did so in style with a square drive to Glenn Maxwell for a four.
Tendulkar took 51 innings to reach the milestone while Haynes and Richards took 59 and 45 innings respectively.