MELBOURNE: Rohit Sharma, aided by a contentious decision that gave him a second life, scored his first World Cup hundred on Thursday to help the defending world champions India post a daunting total of 302 for six in their quarter-final against Bangladesh.
Rohit was caught in the deep when he was on 90 but was allowed to keep batting when the umpires ruled that Rubel Hossain’s delivery was above waist-height and therefore a no-ball, although television replays suggested it was a fair delivery.
Rohit had initially been forced to abandon his normal cavalier approach as his team mates struggled to score quickly on a windy afternoon at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but exploded later in the innings.
While Suresh Raina (65) was the only other batsman to make a significant contribution at a rapid strike-rate, Rohit batted for 47 overs to make 137 off 126 balls, highlighted by 14 boundaries and three sixes.
For a man who scored a world record 264 last year, it was almost sluggish going by his normal standards but no less crucial in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the World Cup.
Of the three matches already played at the sprawling MCG during this tournament, the team batting first has scored over 300 runs and won each time and Bangladesh now face a formidable challenge to break that sequence.
The MCG can be an intimidating bear-pit of a stadium and India opted to bat first in front of their fanatical supporters, and got off to a flying start, racing past 50 inside the first 10 overs.
Bangladesh, appearing in their first World Cup quarter-final, managed to put the brakes on India’s scoring after the fielding restrictions were lifted and they brought on their spinners.
From the end of the 10th over till the start of the 35th over, India added just 104 runs for the loss of three wickets.
Shikhar Dhawan was the first Indian batsman to go, stumped for 30, and he was quickly followed by Virat Kohli, who was caught behind for three after a reckless slash at a wide delivery.
When Ajinkya Rahane departed for 19 in the 28th over, the world champions were suddenly looking under pressure and Bangladesh the team with all the momentum.
But cricket is a game where things can turn on the smallest of margins and India got two big breaks that proved decisive.
Raina survived a confident appeal for lbw when he was on 10 then Rohit got a massive let-off 10 runs short of his century when he holed out at mid-wicket.
The pair put on 122 for the fourth wicket as Bangladesh began to lose their way in the field.
Raina threw his wicket away in the 44th over when he skied a catch behind then Rohit joined him after he was bowled by Taskin Ahmed but their efforts left India in a strong position to join South Africa as the second team in the semi-finals.