Melbourne: Up until yesterday, throughout this World Cup, India opener Rohit Sharma, who takes strike first-up, has never scored off the very first delivery of the innings. Against Pakistan, he let Mohammad Irfan's outside-off delivery go to the wicketkeeper.
Rohit Sharma en route his 126-ball 137 against Bangladesh at the MCG yesterday. Pic/AFP
He then solidly defended Dale Steyn's Ball One against South Africa. Against UAE, Mohammad Naveed's first ball was also let go by Rohit. West Indies' Jerome Taylor's first-ball outswinger was also well left by the Mumbaikar. Ireland's John Mooney then managed to induce a shot off Rohit to the covers but no run. Finally, Zimbabwe's Tinashe Panyangara also failed to get Rohit to nick his first ball before it went to the wicketkeeper.
Yesterday, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, however, Rohit simply stood up and square drove Bangladesh captain Mahrafe Mortaza to the boundary. His intentions were very clear right from the start. He wanted to make this innings count, and how!
The 27-year-old ended up playing a composed 126-ball 137-run knock that saw him pick up his maiden World Cup century and also become the highest scorer in a World Cup quarter-final till date, overtaking Chris Harris' 130 against Australia in 1996. Consequently, India beat Bangladesh by 109 runs to storm into the semi-finals.
Rohit's innings was a gallery of his trademark strokes — the straight drive, the inside-out lofted shot over extra-cover, the stylish pull, the flick over midwicket — it was all there. And then, the three sixes — over long-on, long off and slam-bang back and across the bowler — showed that he was ready to throw caution to the wind even as he was required to play cautiously too as India lost Shikhar Dhawan (30) Virat Kohli (3) and then Ajinkya Rahane (19) rather cheaply.
Partnership with Raina
In Suresh Raina (65 off 57), Rohit found an able partner, and the duo stitched together a valuable 122-run stand to help India post 302-6 which proved to be too much for the Bangla tigers in the end. Finally, the jump and the punch in the air, as he took a double off Mortaza, to get to his seventh ODI century, proved that the 27-year-old is hungrier than ever to get his hands on the World Cup trophy that eluded him four years ago.
"It was a big game for us and we wanted to make it count. It was important for me to stay, especially knowing we lost a couple of wickets in the middle. I knew if I stayed till the 30th-35th over, we could make a big score. I liked all the shots that I played," a confident Rohit said.
Shikhar Dhawan pulled off a stunning catch off the in-form Bangladesh batsman Mahmudullah on the fine-leg boundary with the score reading 73 for three. After a lot of deliberation, the third umpire finally ruled in favour of the fielding side and it all went downhill for Bangladesh thereafter. They only managed to add 120 runs.
Star of the match
Four years ago, Umesh Yadav was the only bright spot in India's bowling on their dismal tour to Australia. This time around, he is certainly making the ball talk on the big stage. He has had the batsmen in all sorts of trouble with his pace, bounce and swing. The quarter-final against Bangladesh was a testimony to that fact. His swing got the better of Tamim Iqbal, while his pace was too hot to handle for Mushfiqur Rahim. He cleaned up the tail quickly too.
Rohit Sharma's average at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The right-handed batsman has scored 335 runs in five ODIs with two centuries at this historic venue