India’s vice-captain Rohit Sharma struck his 24th ODI hundred to give India a solid total against Pakistan in its heavyweight World Cup clash on Sunday.
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 39 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.m 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.
“It has been a while since I opened the batting in a One-Day International. Bit of nerves but happy that I could get the team off to a start like that,” said Rahul. “We know that with Pakistan the initial threat is Amir and Hasan Ali who can seam the ball a little bit. It was important for us to be smart and play out the first 10 overs. I am happy I did that. I won’t lie, I was nervous about the hype of the India-Pakistan game, but it was more because I hadn’t opened the batting in a while. Getting an opportunity after almost two years, so I was more nervous about that.”
Rohit led the charge as he brought up his 50 off 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 Rahul it was always going to be a daunting task to fill into Dhawan’s shoes.
Rahul’s innings was laced with three fours and two sixes as the pair added 136 runs for the opening wicket. 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 MS 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.