VIRAT Kohli smashed a century to steer India to a 76-run victory over arch-rivals Pakistan in a World Cup blockbuster watched by a potential global audience of 2.5 billion people today (February 15).
Defending champions India started the 2015 edition by piling up 300 for seven at the Adelaide Oval, where almost 42,000 fans turned the occasion into a vibrant, colourful and noisy event, before Pakistan were dismissed for 224 to suffer a sixth World Cup loss against their neighbours.
India’s win meant that in all four games played so far at this World Cup the team batting first has triumphed, with all four victorious sides making 300-plus totals.
South Africa had earlier maintained that trend with a 62-run victory over Zimbabwe in Hamilton thanks to a score of 339 for four.
Kohli hit 107, becoming the first Indian to make a World Cup century against his country’s most bitter rivals, as Pakistan wilted in the 40-degree heat.
“It’s one of the biggest wins of my career. It’s amazing to start like this,” said Kohli after his 22nd ODI century on the same ground where he made two centuries in a Test match against Australia in December.
“Expectations of me will rise but I just look to stand up to it. I hate losing. I love to win and play for my country. My role is to play a long innings so that the power hitters can play with freedom.”
Suresh Raina contributed a breezy 74 off 56 balls with three sixes while opener Shikhar Dhawan made 73 at just over a run-a-ball.
Pakistan’s giant paceman Mohammad Irfan, the tallest international cricketer at 7ft 1in, endured a torrid afternoon, finishing with figures of none for 58 off 10 overs and getting warned for running on the wicket.
Pakistan seamer Sohail Khan claimed five for 55 in his maximum 10 overs but his team-mates always struggled to keep in touch with the required run-rate when they batted under the Adelaide floodlights with only skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (76) making a fifty.
“They played well, posted a good total and bowled well. When we lost wickets in the middle it made it hard,” said Misbah.
“The pitch was very good, and our bowlers pulled them back well in the last 10 overs. They might have scored more. Two or three of our batsmen didn’t get in and you can’t say much about that. I thought 300 was gettable.”
Meanwhile, traditional under-achievers South Africa got off to a disastrous start against Zimbabwe at Seddon Park in Hamilton before David Miller and JP Duminy staged a breathtaking rescue act.
From a precarious 83 for four, South Africa raced to a huge 339 for four with Miller smashing 138 for a hundred on World Cup debut, while Duminy scored 115 during the pair’s unbroken stand of 256 - a new fifth-wicket record in all one-day internationals.
The Proteas lost Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and skipper AB de Villiers cheaply as their unheralded African neighbours threatened an upset.
But Miller, with seven fours and a World Cup record nine sixes, and Duminy, who hit nine boundaries and three sixes, took the game away from Zimbabwe in a stand which shattered the previous fifth-wicket ODI best of 226 between England’s Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara against Ireland in Dublin in 2013.
Miller helped himself to 30 runs off the 48th over bowled by paceman Solomon Mire through three sixes and three fours.
“David was exceptional - he just muscled it about all over the park,” said Duminy.
Miller added: “We just kept encouraging each other along the way and we knew how important this partnership was to the team.”
In reply, Zimbabwe were bowled out for 277 in the 49th over after Hamilton Masakadza (80) and opener Chamu Chibhabha (64) had briefly threatened an upset when they took their team to 191 for two.
Co-hosts Australia and New Zealand already have opening wins under their belts.
On Saturday (February 14), four-time champions Australia defeated England by 111 runs in front of almost 85,000 fans at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after New Zealand had comfortably seen off Sri Lanka by 98 runs in Christchurch.
Monday’s (February 16) action sees West Indies tackle Ireland in Nelson.