Virat Kohli scored an imperious century as India opened their World Cup defence in convincing fashion with a 76-run victory over Pakistan in a frenzied atmosphere at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
The much-anticipated Pool B grudge match, the latest chapter in one of the great rivalries in sport, attracted a passionate crowd of 41,587 to the revamped ground with up to a billion more tuning in on the sub-continent and around the world.
It was the two thirds of the crowd dressed in the blue of India who had most to cheer, though, as Kohli brushed aside concerns over his recent one-day form with a knock of 107 to drive his side to an imposing tally of 300 for seven. It was his fourth century in five matches at the Adelaide Oval.
Pakistan started their reply steadily before a three-wicket blitz in two overs at the halfway mark of the innings saw opener Ahmed Shehzad depart for 47 and reduced them to 103 for five.
Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (76) and Shahid Afridi flirted with a match-changing partnership but once the latter departed for 22 and Wahab Riaz followed in the same over, Pakistan's hopes of a first win over India in six World Cup attempts was gone.
Indian seamer Mohammed Shami took four for 35 but it was Mohit Sharma who drove the final nail into the coffin when Sohail Khan holed out for seven to end the Pakistan innings at 224 all out.
Kohli’s century was the first by an Indian in those six World Cup encounters and took his impressive tally to 22 in one-day internationals, joint fourth on the all-time list with his former skipper Sourav Ganguly.
Dropped from a difficult chance by Yasir Shah off Afridi on seven and again by wicketkeeper Umar Akmal on 76, Kohli otherwise played well within himself and gave few chances in his 126 balls at the crease.
The 26-year-old put together a dominant partnership of 129 with Shikhar Dhawan (73) and, once the opener had been run out, another of 110 with Suresh Raina (74), whose innings was as aggressive as Dhawan's had been considered.
Kohli reached his hundred with a single to long on, whipping off his helmet to celebrate his fourth century in five one-day and Test matches at the Adelaide Oval.
Sohail Khan took 5-55 in his first one-dayer since 2011, removing both Kohli and Raina as well as India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni as three Indian batsmen were sent back in the last couple of overs.
That gave Pakistan some momentum but they lost it completely when Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood (0) and Akmal (0) were dismissed in two overs. Akmal's dismissal came through the Decision Review System, with the TV umpire deciding that he had edged behind to Dhoni despite little evidence of the ball making contact with the bat.
Misbah played the captain’s role in his 84-ball 76, which included nine fours and a six, but the 40-year-old’s quest for a maiden one-day century will go on to his 157th match.
After being awarded the man of the match, Kohli admitted his love for the Adelaide Oval.
“I want to wrap up this ground and take it home,” Kohli said in a pitchside interview. “This has been a really special ground for me.
“It’s probably one of the biggest wins I’ve had in my career right now. Just an amazing way for us to kick off the World Cup, just an amazing pressure game against Pakistan. Good to get that one under the belt.”
In the other Pool B game, David Miller and JP Duminy both scored centuries as South Africa overcame a real challenge from Zimbabwe to record a 62-run victory in Hamilton, New Zealand.
Miller (138 not out) and Duminy (115 not out) rescued the Proteas’ innings after they had been in trouble at 83 for four, as they put on a world record fifth-wicket stand of 256 to guide their side to 339 for four.
Elton Chigumbura's side, however, also showed that they would be a dangerous opponent for many sides with opener Chamu Chibhabha (64), Hamilton Masakadza (80) and Brendan Taylor (40) showing they were all highly competent international batsmen.
They had been on 214 for three and well set to push on for the final 15 overs before Taylor’s dismissal effectively ended their resistance and they were bowled out for 277 in 48.2 overs.
Ireland get their Pool B campaign underway against West Indies in the New Zealand city of Nelson on Monday, with the game getting underway at 10pm Irish time on Sunday night.