Back in competitive cricket after almost four months due to an injury lay-off, KL Rahul on Monday showed why Indian selectors were desperate to get him back in the ICC World Cup squad. Resuming from an unbeaten 17, the Karnataka right-hander dominated the proceedings with a scintillating century against a Pakistan attack that lacked the sting after losing Haris Rauf, and later Naseem Shah.
Former India skipper Virat Kohli, who also went undefeated after scoring eight runs on Sunday, joined the party by getting his fourth successive ODI century at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo and 47th overall in 50 over cricket, as the India pair put up 233 runs for the second wicket partnership to post a massive 356/2 at the end of 50 overs.
Kohli eventually finished on an unbeaten 122 off 94 balls while Rahul ended 111 not out off 106 deliveries.
Almost 24 hours after play resumed in the Asia Cup Super Four match, the Indian pair came all guns blazing against Pakistan, who were forced to employ part-time off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed to bowl the quota of overs left by Haris and Naseem. Both Rahul and Kohli used that to their advantage, making it a nightmarish outing for the Men-in-Green.
On resumption, it seemed India were in no mood for accumulation, and once Rahul spotted the ball in Iftikhar’s hands, his eyes lit up, and what followed was a sweep for a six, followed by a cut as he waited for the shorter delivery. Shadab Khan, the frontline spinner in the side, was also taken to the cleaners by the Indian pair, with his 10 overs costing Pakistan 71 runs.
Pakistan’s pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi also hardly found any respite, leaking 79 runs from his quota of 10 overs.
Rahul also flaunted his improved fitness by running hard between the wickets, and exhibited his wide range of strokes to first get to his fifty off 60 balls before stepping up the gas to reach the three-figure mark in another 40 balls.
At the other end, Kohli first brought up a half-century of 55 balls and then took just 29 more to notch up a well deserved century. In the process, Kohli breezed past the legendary Sachin Tendulkar’s record of 13,000 ODI runs in his 267th innings. This makes him the fastest batter to 8000, 9000, 10000, 11000, 120000 and now 13000 ODI runs.
Before the game, Kohli, with 12902 runs, needed 98 runs, and the Delhi batter accomplished the feat in style to storm past Tendulkar’s record. He reached the landmark in 54 fewer innings than Tendulkar (321 innings).
Earlier on Sunday, the Indian openers Shubman Gill (58) and skipper Rohit Sharma (56) set the tone for the massive score with a 121-run opening stand before Rahul and Kohli joined forces.