In the beginning, there was the threat of rain affecting one of the marquee contests in the ICC Cricket World Cup in Manchester. Fortunately, the heavens did not open up. Pakistan won the toss and looking at the cloud cover and the potential of rain, they chose to field. Sarfaraz Ahmed ignored Prime Minister and former Pakistan skipper Imran Khan’s advice that Pakistan should have batted first. The toss was the only thing that Pakistan won in Manchester on Sunday. Rohit Sharma’s brilliant 24th century, combined with Virat Kohli’s 51st fifty helped India amass 335/6, the highest in contests against Pakistan. For some time, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam kept Pakistan afloat with a century partnership. However, Kuldeep Yadav produced the ball of the tournament by getting rid of Azam for 48 and Zaman for 62. The contest was killed quickly and when the rain finally came, the DLS calculations did not matter. The scoreline in World Cups for India became 7-0 as they won by 89 runs via DLS method to ensure Pakistan’s pain would be prolonged.
Rohit had a new partner in KL Rahul following the injury to Shikhar Dhawan and they withstood a tough spell from Mohammad Amir. However, Rohit broke the shackles with a brilliant cut shot to deep cover off Hasan Ali while he crunched a pull shot over deep midwicket for a six. The right-hander cracked a short ball off Shadab Khan to the deep point fence while he clobbered yet another six. Rohit got to his landmark in style by smashing yet another short ball from the legspinner to the square third man fence for a boundary.
Rahul continued his fine form and he supported Rohit well as he notched up his third fifty. However, Wahab Riaz struck a big blow as Rahul chipped a full ball to Babar Azam at short cover for 57. Rohit continued his fine run and he targeted the spinners brilliantly by lashing Mohammad Hafeez straight down the ground for a boundary. He survived a close call when he was in the 80s when he inside-edged Hasan Ali but the ball missed the stumps and raced away to the fine leg fence.
Rohit entered the 90s in style by upper-cutting a six off Hasan Ali over the third man for his third six and he reached his milestone by cutting Shadab to the deep point fence for a single to bring up his century off just 85 balls. Rohit continued to rake in the records as he broke Virat Kohli's mark of the highest individual score in World Cups against Pakistan, which was 107 in the 2015 World Cup in Adelaide.
Giving Rohit company, Virat Kohli looked in great touch. Kohli reached his 51st fifty and with a flick off Hasan Ali to the long leg fence, the right-hander reached 11000 runs in ODIs. Sachin Tendulkar had held the previous record by scoring 11000 runs in just 276 innings during the Kanpur ODI against England in 2002 while Kohli achieved it in just his 222nd innings. A rain break for close to 50 minutes stalled momentum and Pakistan fought back with Amir taking the wicket of Kohli for 77. However, India managed to reach 335/6, their highest in World Cup contests against Pakistan and an uphill struggle awaited them.
In response, there were some worried faces when Bhuvneshwar Kumar experienced tightness in his hamstring and left the field to be ruled out for the remainder of the clash. However, Vijay Shankar struck immediately with his first ball in the World Cup by trapping Imam-ul-Haq in front. For some time, Pakistan had reason to hope with Zaman and Azam looking in great touch. The left-hander notched up his fifty and showed glimpses of his brilliance like he had done in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017. Azam struck a six off Yuzvendra Chahal and it seemed the game was nicely set.
Kuldeep Yadav got the big wickets of Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman in quick succession. (Image credit: Getty Images)
However, Kuldeep produced the ball of the match and it killed the contest. The chinaman bowled a ripping legbreak that breached Azam’s defence and he fell for 48. Couple of overs later, Kuldeep accounted for Zaman and when Hardik Pandya dismissed Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in quick succession, the contest was killed. When Shankar sent back Sarfaraz Ahmed, the contest was beyond Pakistan and when the rain arrived, it was a mere formality. For Pakistan, their saga of pain was prolonged against India and Manchester was just an addition.