World Cup 2019: Rohit, Rahul tons give India easy win over Sri Lanka

Rohit Sharma and K.L. Rahul scored hundreds as India ended its league stage with an emphatic seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka.

K.L. Rahul and Rohit Sharma became second openers to score centuries each in a World Cup.   -  Reuters Photo

A few days ago, while awe lubricated his voice, Virat Kohli said: “Rohit Sharma is the best one-day player.” The Indian skipper’s words found further validation as Rohit etched his fifth hundred in the current World Cup and it also proved to be a third ton on the trot.

The vice-captain’s rapturous knock (103, 94b, 14x4, 2x6) and the synergy he found from fellow centurion K.L. Rahul (111, 118b, 11x4, 1x6) deflated Sri Lanka as India clinically won its World Cup fixture at Headingley here by seven wickets.

On a Saturday that dawned with a drizzle and subsequently embraced sunshine, the chants of “Rohit, Rohit” turned out to be the afternoon’s anthem while a sea of blue with flecks of orange, exulted. Pursuing Sri Lanka’s 264 for seven that was mounted upon a splendid 113 (128b, 10x4, 2x6) by Angelo Mathews, Kohli’s men replied with 265 for three in 43.3 overs.

Scorecard | As it happened

India’s chase found an ideal launch-pad through Rohit and Rahul’s 189-run partnership off 181 deliveries. Lasith Malinga’s tussle with his Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit was an important element and the latter won the joust. Malinga wavered outside off-stump and Rohit with a half-step, drove him past covers. The curly-haired menace then over-compensated on the leg-side and the Mumbaikar elegantly on-drove.

Kasun Rajitha, the other seamer, equally felt the heat of Rohit’s willow and both the premier batsman and his understudy Rahul prospered and the fight ebbed away from Dimuth Karunaratne’s men. India’s first-wicket pair devoured the bowlers and the aggression was distilled into correct cricketing shots.

Even when they reached their respective fifties with an identical modus-operandi – sixes off spinner Dhananjaya de Silva, the strokes had beauty as the overwhelming flavour. Just as he neared his hundred, Rohit played a cover-drive for the ages. Malinga sealed both cover and extra-cover but the batsman nonchalantly drove through the small gap. This was a master at work and though Rohit perished immediately after reaching his milestone, the warm pats on his back from the opposition fielders, reflected the aura he exuded.

Read: Rohit equals Tendulkar for most centuries in World Cup

Rahul then extended the aesthetic mauling, driving, pulling and being unhurried at the crease while his captain Kohli applauded from the other end. A glide to third man off Malinga, ushered in another special hundred for the day and India’s cup of joy brimmed. The pacer, who suffered two more fours at the opener’s hands, had his vengeance with a bouncer that grazed the glove but the Men in Blue were by then just a few hits from the winning post.  

Earlier, Karunaratne opted to bat and he and Kusal Perera coped well with Bhuvneshwar Kumar but found an impenetrable fortress in Jasprit Bumrah. When Karunaratne tried to dab past point, he couldn’t hoodwink another southpaw – Ravindra Jadeja. Incidentally, the last-named was drafted into India’s playing eleven along with Kuldeep Yadav after Mohammed Shami and Yuzvendra Chahal were rested.

Soon while trying to cut, the Sri Lankan captain edged Bumrah to M.S. Dhoni, who had a busy morning. Perera meanwhile swung hard at Bhuvneshwar and the catch eluded Kuldeep as he and Hardik Pandya nearly collided. On seven then, Perera couldn’t capitalise as he snicked Bumrah and warmed Dhoni’s gloves. Two more wickets collapsed as Kusal Mendis lunged forward to Jadeja and heard the bails being whipped while Avishka Fernando fell to the combine of Bumrah and Dhoni.

Also read: Rohit Sharma pips Shakib to become top-scorer in World Cup 2019

Sri Lanka gasped at 55 for four in the 12th over and Mathews had to douse the fires. He precisely did that and with Lahiru Thirimanne (53), scripted a vital 124-run fifth-wicket partnership. The two preferred the doughty approach and once Mathews punched Kuldeep for four, his confidence grew. Thirimanne then swept the chinaman bowler and the Indians had to constantly alter their lines as they had to contend with the right-left mix of Mathews and his partner.

Mathews relished a life-line on 61 when he hoisted Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar spilled the catch. The all-rounder continued unhindered though the alliance ended with Thirimanne succumbing to Kuldeep. Mathews reached the three-figure mark with an upper-cut off Pandya and even though he holed out during the slog, the Sri Lankan total had acquired strength. Rohit and company, however, felt otherwise.