Sharma shines as India humble Sri Lanka

Plane flies over Headingley with ‘Justice for Kashmir’ banner

LEEDS: Rohit Sharma became the first player to hit five centuries in a single World Cup as India cantered to a comfortable seven-wicket win in their final World Cup group match against Sri Lanka yesterday. Sharma smashed 103 off 94 deliveries as semi-finalists India chased down their target of 265 in 43.3 overs to end the league stage with seven wins, one defeat and one washout.

Sharma’s opening partner KL Rahul top-scored with 111 as the pair put on 189 runs for the first wicket to put India well on top. Sharma reached his milestone with a boundary off Kasun Rajitha to pass the mark set by Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, who scored four hundreds at the 2015 tournament.

He reached his century off 92 balls with 14 fours and two sixes but was dismissed shortly afterwards, caught by Angelo Mathews off the bowling of Rajitha. Sharma, known as the “hitman”, now leads the tournament’s run-scoring charts with 647 runs in eight matches after hitting his third successive century. He is only the fourth batsman after Sachin Tendulkar, Matthew Hayden and Shakib Al Hasan to score more than 600 runs at a single World Cup.

Skipper Virat Kohli remained unbeaten on 34 and Hardik Pandya hit the winning runs to give India a chance of finishing above group leaders Australia, playing South Africa in the later match at Old Trafford. Rahul registered his first century of the tournament but was caught behind shortly before the end of the game off veteran paceman Lasith Malinga-playing his final World Cup match-after hitting 11 fours and one six in his 118-ball knock.

Earlier, Mathews hit his third one-day international century and put on 124 runs for the fifth wicket with Lahiru Thirimanne (53) to give Sri Lanka a respectable total after they were reeling at 55-4. Jasprit Bumrah returned impressive figures of 3-37 in his 10 overs as India, who had already qualified for the semi-finals, restricted Sri Lanka with some quality bowling. The 1996 champions finished their World Cup campaign with three wins, four defeats and two games ending in no result.

‘Justice for Kashmir’
Meanwhile, banners reading “#Justice for Kashmir” and “India stop genocide & free Kashmir” were flown over Headingley during India’s World Cup clash with Sri Lanka yesterday. It followed last week’s incident when a banner was flown over the same ground in Leeds during the match between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the Himalayan territory in full. An insurgency on the Indian side over the past three decades has left more than 70,000 dead, mainly civilians. “We are incredibly disappointed this has happened again,” the International Cricket Council said in a statement. “We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.

“Throughout the tournament we have worked with local police forces around the country to prevent this type of protest occurring. After the previous incident we were assured by West Yorkshire Police there would not be a repeat of this issue, so we are very dissatisfied it has happened again.” The ICC said it had been assured by police that there would not be a repeat of the incidents during the semi-finals in Manchester and Birmingham. Last week’s group game between Pakistan and Afghanistan was marred by clashes between fans, prompting a police probe.

The ugly scenes were sparked by the flying of a banner over the ground reading: “Justice for Balochistan.” Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is rife with Islamist, separatist and sectarian insurgencies. The Pakistani military has been waging war on militants there since 2004, and security forces are frequently targeted. Later yesterday, another banner was flown over the stadium reading “Help end mob lynching in India”

Dozens of people have been killed by Hindu groups over the past five years over allegations that they had slaughtered cows or eaten beef. Critics have accused the government of right-wing Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi of turning a blind eye to vigilante attacks on minority Muslims in the name of cow protection. Modi has called the deaths “unacceptable” and called the mobs “anti-social” in his rare comments on the cases.- Agencies

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