World Cup 2019: Rohit century lifts India to 336

Rohit Sharma scored his second century in World Cup 2019 as India batting first set a target of 337 for Pakistan.

Rohit Sharma plays a shot during his knock of 140 against Pakistan.   -  Reuters Photo

It largely rained runs for a change at Old Trafford and the Indian fans were ecstatic. The weather gods partially relented, a wet curtain wasn’t fully on display, and on a rousing Sunday, Rohit Sharma reigned with a masterly 140 (113b, 14x4, 3x6) in a key World Cup clash against Pakistan.

The opener’s stunning hundred, second in the current championship and 24th in ODIs, laid the base for India’s 336 for five in 50 overs. The innings suffered a one hour break when the skies opened up at 1.45 p.m. India was placed at 305 for four in 46.4 overs then and upon resumption, motored on despite losing Virat Kohli (77).

Earlier the day dawned bright but a brief drizzle did sink hearts. Just before despondency took a grip, the droplets paused and it was time to say ‘game-on’. Promptly, Sarfaraz Ahmed won the toss and elected to field. After the national anthems were played, Kohli put an arm around Rohit, patted K.L. Rahul and in a while, the last two named emerged as India’s openers. Mohammad Amir commenced the attack and a watchful Rahul played out a maiden over.

IND vs PAK: Blog and scores

It was the proverbial lull before the emerging storm. Rohit, who suffered a scare when he nearly chopped Hassan Ali onto his stumps, eased his nerves once he drove the seamer and pulled Amir’s intended bouncer. Amir, warned twice for running onto the danger-area, bowled a nagging line but the pressure he built, was dissipated at the other end. Rohit cut Ali and when the seamer over-compensated and fired down the leg-side, the mighty willow-wielder moved inside the line and pulled a six.

India’s first-wicket pair was set and only a run-out seemed a probable deal-breaker - one almost happened but Rohit survived. As if to celebrate, he square-drove Wahab Riaz for four. India was 53 for no loss in the first 10 overs and with the building blocks in place, it was time to consolidate. Rahul (57), initially playing second-fiddle, shed his twitchiness and launched into the spinners. Imad Wasim was swept fine, Shadab Khan got cut with precision and at 11.15 a.m., when the sun finally emerged past the lingering clouds, the stands erupted with a huge roar.

However, there was nothing sunny about Pakistan’s performance. Leg-spinner Shadab was erratic and when he delivered a full-toss, Rohit tucked into it like a hungry Mumbaikar relishing his pav bhaji on a monsoon-drenched Marine Drive. The six smacked of power and disdain.

WATCH: Rohit Sharma slams second ton in World Cup 2019

Sarfaraz swapped his bowlers and seven were employed. Yet, there was no respite as Rahul greeted Shoaib Malik with a six.  When Riaz returned for his second spell, he too got warned for running onto the danger area. The left-arm speedster switched to around the wicket and his fortunes changed as Rahul perished in the inner circle but by then the lanky batsman had added 136 for the opening wicket.      

There was applause for the departing Rahul but when Kohli ran down the steps, the acoustic limits were breached. The Indian captain was quick off the mark, motoring down the turf for his singles and twos besides etching his fours and when Rohit reached his ton, Kohli punched his bat, dispensed a warm hug and India was in batting paradise. Rohit and Virat shared a 98-run second-wicket partnership which ended when the former scooped Ali to Riaz at short fine-leg.

Kohli continued unabated till the rain-intermission affected his rhythm, Hardik Pandya dished out a cameo while M.S. Dhoni missed out on the run-feast. But India seemingly has enough in its kitty to challenge Pakistan later in an afternoon, which is expected to have a few damp interludes.