LEEDS A peerless Rohit Sharma’s graceful willow continued its day job of breaking world records as India warmed up nicely for their World Cup semi-final, decimating Sri Lanka by seven wickets in their final group league match on Saturday.
The Indian vice-captain (103 off 94 balls) scored an unprecedented fifth hundred in a single World Cup edition as India surpassed the Sri Lankan total of 264/7 in 43.3 overs and finished their league engagement with seven wins.
Ironically enough, whenever Angelo Mathews — who also hit a century — showed his grit against India, Rohit has inevitably overshadowed him in his inimitable style.
It happened in Mohali in 2017 when his double hundred overpowered Mathews’ century. Ditto at Headingley, one of the oldest cradles of English cricket where Matchews’ fighting ton became a footnote.
KL Rahul (111 off 118 balls), however, would have no complaints after scoring his maiden World Cup ton as he had the best seat in the house while playing the perfect support cast.
Rohit’s artistry was at a different level as he bled the Sri Lankan bowling, especially Lasith Malinga (1/82 in 10 overs) with thousand cuts.
The supple wrists worked overtime, whether caressing the ball through mid-wicket region time and again or bisecting a few between cover and point area.
The languid stance and those extra half second to manoeuvre the balls to any part of the ground with lazy elegance made it a treat for the capacity weekend crowd.
The 14 boundaries and two sixes could be a part of any highlights package with cover driven boundaries and the extra cover driven sixes, that one could rewind and watch a thousand times.
The beauty in Rohit’s strokes ensured that people had their eyes transfixed on the on-ground entertainment unlike ICC bigwigs who kept a hawk’s eye on disturbing anti-India banners over the Headingley air space.
When Rohit finally got out, he was only 26 runs short of Sachin Tendulkar’s highest aggregate (673 runs in 2003 edition) of runs which is up for grabs in the semi-final.
Earlier, Mathews had again turned out to be a thorn in India’s flesh with a gutsy hundred after a top-order collapse, guiding Sri Lanka to a respectable 264 for 7.
The former Sri Lanka captain (113 off 128 balls) played a near perfect knock with his back to the wall, to give his team a chance to fight which looked bleak after first hour.
Jasprit Bumrah (3/37 in 10 overs) was fast, accurate and mostly unplayable but Bhuvneshwar Kumar (1/73 in 10 overs) had a forgettable day.
Mathews, who has now scored all his three ODI hundreds against India (Mohali and Ranchi earlier), hit 10 fours and two sixes in his final knock of this competition.
Mathews came in at 53 for 3 and it soon became 55 for 4 when Lahiru Thirimanne (53 off 68 balls) joined him.
The duo added 124 runs for the fifth wicket to bail the team out of the woods. He then had a 74-run stand for the sixth wicket with Dhananjaya de Silva (29 off 36 balls) that helped Sri Lanka get past the 250-run mark.
The 32-year-old Mathews’ knock was a treat to watch as it was a perfect example of how to build an innings after a top-order collapse.
Ravindra Jadeja (1/40 in 10 overs) was given respect and only twice he chanced his arms for two maximums.
Kuldeep Yadav (1/58 off 10 overs), after being dropped against Bangladesh, did not show much improvement as he was bowling too full which both Thirimanne and Mathews found easy to negotiate.
Kuldeep, at the fag end of his spell, did get Thirimanne, who tried to hit the left-arm wrist spinner against the spin.
With Mohammed Shami rested, India played with two seamers. While Bhuvneshwar was picked for special treatment by Mathews and Thirimanne, it was Bumrah, who had given his team initial momentum with two dismissals.