Sharma’s century helps India beat Afghanistan by 8 wickets at Cricket World Cup
NEW DELHI: Rohit Sharma’s quick hundred off only 63 balls helped India earn a second straight win at the Cricket World Cup by beating Afghanistan by eight wickets on Wednesday.
Sharma smashed 12 fours and four sixes on his way to the fastest century for an Indian batsman in a World Cup game, finishing on 131. He added 156 runs off 112 balls with Ishan Kishan as India steamrollered their way to 273-2.
Earlier, Hashmatullah Shahidi and Azmatullah Omarzai put on a 121-run partnership, the second highest ever in the World Cup for Afghanistan, as it finished on 272-8.
Sharma broke a plethora of records on the day as India joined New Zealand and Pakistan on two wins from two games.
“It was a good win for us, as it is important to get momentum going at the start of such a tournament,” Sharma said. “It was a good pitch to bat and I just backed myself to play my natural game. It is my job to set the start in run-chases, and I look to put the opposition under pressure. It is a special feeling to get another World Cup hundred.”
It was Sharma’s seventh World Cup hundred — the most by an Indian batsman — and his 31st in ODIs. He is now third on the list of all-time ODI hundreds, after compatriots Sachin Tendulkar (49) and Virat Kohli (47).
Kishan scored 47 runs off 47 balls, with five fours and two sixes. Kohli rounded up India’s night with 55 not out off 56 balls, including six fours, at his home ground.
Chasing 273, Sharma and Kishan set a hectic pace as they smacked 50 off 37 balls. The next 50 came off only 34 balls.
Sharma got to 50 off 30 balls, the second quickest in this World Cup, as he hit seven fours and two sixes. He then hit five more fours and two more sixes to score his second 50 off 33 balls. His third six took him past Chris Gayle’s tally of 553 for the most sixes in international cricket.
Kishan was out caught in the 19th over, against the run of play. Kohli then walked out to bat at his home ground with the capacity crowd at the Arun Jaitely Stadium chanting his name.
Sharma continued attacking the bowlers, scoring 29 off the next 19 balls, and added 49 off 42 balls with Kohli for the second wicket. He was bowled off Rashid Khan, trying to hit a googly out of the ground.
Kohli was joined in by Shreyas Iyer, who scored 25 not out and hit a 101-meter six. They added 68 off 56 balls for the third wicket, as India wrapped up the win with 90 balls to spare.
Earlier, Afghanistan made a cautious start after they won the toss and opted to bat. Rahmanullah Gurbaz (21) and Ibrahim Zadran (22) added 32 runs for the first wicket as the Indian pacers searched for their bearings on a flat track.
Mohammed Siraj proved expensive — he finished with 0-76 from nine overs, his joint most expensive spell in ODIs after returning the same figures against Australia on debut in 2019.
Bumrah got the breakthrough to dismiss Zadran, while Gurbaz holed out at square leg off Hardik Pandya.
Shardul Thakur, who was brought in for Ravichandran Ashwin, trapped Rahmat Shah lbw for 16.
It brought Shahidi and Azmatullah together, and they defied India’s bowlers for 128 deliveries. Their 100-run partnership came off 118 balls.
Shahidi scored 80 off 88 balls, including eight fours and a six, with his half-century coming off 58 deliveries. It was his third 50-plus score in World Cups, the most for an Afghanistan batsman.
Azmatullah also scored 50 off 62 balls, and overall scored 62 off 69 balls. He hit two fours and four sixes.
Wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav bowled with great control, taking 1-40 in 10 overs. Pandya finished with 2-43 from seven overs, while Bumrah was India’s most successful bowler with 4-39.
Pandya got the breakthrough when he bowled Azmatullah in the 35th over, while Yadav trapped Shahidi lbw in the 43rd.
Afghanistan lost its last four wickets for 36 runs, with Bumrah dismissing hard-hitters Mohammad Nabi (19) and Rashid Khan (16), but finished with its second-highest World Cup total.
India’s next game is against archrival Pakistan in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
“It will be crucial for us to not think too much about external factors and just look at things we can control,” Sharma said. “We just need to show up and perform.”