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Kohli hails Sharma as terrific ton blows away Pakistan

Big moment: Rohit Sharma celebrates his century
Big moment: Rohit Sharma celebrates his century

BY david charlesworth

Rohit Sharma's sparkling 140 from 113 balls helped India maintain their stranglehold over Pakistan in the World Cup in front of a global television audience of around one billion viewers.

One day after Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur challenged his players to "do something incredible (and) be remembered forever", it was Sharma who rose to the occasion in a highly-charged environment at a packed out Old Trafford.

The opener's century, containing 14 fours and three sixes, plus fifties from KL Rahul and Virat Kohli instigated an 89-run rain-affected victory, India's seventh win in seven World Cup matches against their arch rivals.

Pakistan had squandered two opportunities to run out Sharma early into his innings but the in-form right-hander was not so generous as he underpinned India's 336 for five - the highest one-day international total at this ground.

Pakistan needed to set a new tournament record for a successful chase, an assignment that was beyond them long before rain intervened and brought down the target to 302 in 40 overs as they finished on 212 for six.

Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam had given Pakistan a flicker of hope with a century stand but a mini-collapse halted them in their tracks, with Kuldeep Yadav, Hardik Pandya and part-timer Vijay Shankar claiming two wickets apiece.

Triumphant captain Kohli hailed Sharma's contribution.

"Rohit's knock was outstanding but to get to 330 you need a team effort and that is exactly what happened," he said. "He is such a good ODI player, when he gets to 70 he is unstoppable. It allows me to come in and play in a certain role, the guys are playing their roles nicely.

"Kuldeep is a wicket taker, a longer spell helped him, he was getting rhythm and the ball to get Babar Azam was brilliant. A very important moment.

"We have played good cricket against Pakistan, if you focus on this game too emotionally things can get haywire. We cannot approach it like fans, as cricketers you have to understand what needs to be done on the field.

"Bhuvneshwar Kumar has a slight niggle, he slipped on the footmarks. It doesn't look too serious and hopefully he will be ready in a few games. We are not too worried."

Pakistan skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed said: "We lost too many wickets. When we saw moisture on the pitch we wanted to bowl but we didn't hit the right areas. We back ourselves so will try to win our last four matches."

The majority of those inside the ground went home happy as India extended their unbeaten start in England and Wales for a third win in four but Pakistan's third defeat leaves them a major doubt to progress.

Pakistan lurched from 117 for one to 129 for five, ending their prospects of a memorable chase, with a further rain delay merely delaying the inevitable.

Meanwhile, the West Indies are hoping to kick-start a charge towards the semi-finals with victory over Bangladesh at Taunton today.

Jason Holder's side sparkled in a crushing opening win against Pakistan but have since been hit by defeats to two of the favourites, Australia and England.

That has left them with just three points from four games - including a no result against South Africa - and with work to do to claim a place in the top four.

Holder believes his team still have destiny in their own hands.

The captain (below) said: "With five games left, I think the ball's in our court. We've just got to be consistent. It's quite a good stage to pick up momentum as well, and we're full of confidence that we can do it.

"We've just got to take it game by game. It is a challenge against Bangladesh and we just want to get over Bangladesh and move forward."

Recent history in the fixture is against the West Indies, however, with Bangladesh having beaten them in seven of their last nine meetings.

"If you want to put us in the underdog category, fair enough," said Holder. "We've played them quite a bit in the recent past and they've got the better of us in recent past. But different stage, lots at stake. We're all up for it."

Holder says a late decision will be made over the fitness of big-hitting all-rounder Andre Russell, who must manage a long-term knee condition.

Russell is a key component of the Windies' fearsome pace attack but, whether he features or not, Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal insists his side will be ready.

"They usually target us with the short ball but they do the same against all sides in the first 10 to 15 overs," Tamim said.

"They also give run-scoring opportunities. We have to prepare for both, that's why we are working hard in practice."

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