Rohit Sharma plays his 'best ODI innings' in World Cup opener

It wasn't a typical Rohit Sharma innings, admits the Mumbai batsman as India beat South Africa.

India kicked off their ICC Cricket World Cup campaign with a victory against South Africa in their opener on Wednesday at Southampton thanks to a Rohit Sharma century that skipper Virat Kohli described as "his best knock" in One Day Internationals.

Chasing 228, India lost Shikhar Dhawan with the score at 13 and then Kohli walked back in the 16th over handing the Proteas hope to tighten the noose on the opposition. But Sharma managed an 85-run partnership with KL Rahul, who scored only 26 of those runs, and forged a 74-run stand with MS Dhoni to keep India in control of the chase.

"In my opinion this is by far his best ODI innings because the kind of pressure the first game brings from a World Cup point of view and then I know as a batsman when you go in and a few balls bounce like that, it's not easy to gather yourself again and play in a calm manner," captain Kohli pointed out. "A lot of times batsmen tend to hit their way out of the situation. But he was very composed... he's played so many games, we expect a lot of maturity and a lot of responsibility from someone like him.

Sharma ended up with an unbeaten 122, taking an uncharacteristic 144 balls, and smashed 13 fours and 2 sixes in India's six-wicket victory. He brought up his fifty in 70 balls and his hundred in 128, becoming the first Asian batsman to hit a ton in this year's World Cup. His 23rd century meant that now he has hit the third most centuries by an Indian in ODIs, surpassing Sourav Ganguly's tally. Only Sachin Tendulkar and Kohli are now ahead of the Mumbai batsman.

"In my opinion, of all the brilliant innings I have seen him play, this for me was on the top of the pile because of the way he compiled his innings," Kohli continued. "At no stage did we or he felt like he was going to throw it away. Controlling the game so beautifully from one end and allowing the others to just play themselves and stringing small little partnerships.

"Looking at the fact that we were chasing only 228, he played the perfect innings for that kind of a situation, on that kind of a wicket and against a bowling attack that was threatening to pick a wicket at any stage, yeah, in my opinion, by far his best knock," he concluded.

Sharma, an ARCS Andheri pick in the inaugural season of T20 Mumbai, admitted that the knock was a result of him adapting to the situation.

"There was something in the pitch for the bowlers through the game," Sharma said. "I couldn't play my natural game. I had to take my time to play shots, had to cut down certain shots I love to play. I wanted to leave a lot of balls initially, was trying to stick to the basics and build partnerships even though it was a small total.

"I had fun. It wasn't a typical Rohit Sharma innings... I had to play out the overs to ensure I get the job done," he summed up.

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