Sharma hits third fifty of World Cup as India start strongly against Pakistan

Julian GUYER
India's Rohit Sharma hit a superb hundred against Pakistan (AFP Photo/Dibyangshu SARKAR)

Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Rohit Sharma hit his third fifty in as many innings in this World Cup as India made an excellent start to their clash against arch rivals Pakistan at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Sharma and KL Rahul took India to 101-0 off 18 overs after they lost the toss in Manchester. Sharma was 61 not out and Rahul 37 not out.

Their efforts were all the more impressive as they were opening together for the first time in a one-day international.

Opener Shikhar Dhawan was sidelined with a thumb injury suffered while making a century in a victory over champions Australia last time out.

Sharma, who made 122 in India's opening win over South Africa and 57 against Australia, went to fifty in just 34 balls against Pakistan.

He got there in style with a six over long-on and a cut four, off successive deliveries from recalled leg-spinner Shadab Khan.

Earlier, Pakistan spearhead Mohammad Amir risked being removed from the attack after receiving two official warnings for running on the pitch.

Amir was sanctioned by Australian umpire Bruce Oxenford in the third and fifth overs of Sunday's match.

One more such warning, from either Oxenford or fellow standing umpire Marais Erasmus, would see Amir unable to bowl again in this fixture.

That would be a huge blow to Pakistan, with in-form left-arm fast bowler Amir having taken career-best figures of 5-30 -- the best of the tournament so far in a 41-run group loss to Australia at Taunton on Wednesday.

Bowlers must not run on to the protected area near the stumps after delivering the ball so as not to unfairly scuff up the surface and make batting more difficult when the bowling is from the other end.

Amir still conceded just eight runs in his opening four overs.

Pakistan are currently ninth in the 10-team table and realistically need to beat India if they are to maintain their hopes of a top-four finish from the round-robin group stage that will see them into the semi-finals.

More than a billion fans were set to watch the match on television, while there were some 800,000 applications for tickets to watch the match at an Old Trafford ground where the maximum capacity is 26,000.