Pakistan began their Asia Cup journey in impressive fashion with an all-round performance against Nepal. Skipper Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed smashed centuries while fiery spells from Shadab Khan and Haris Rauf led Pakistan to a convincing 238 run win over Nepal in the tournament opener in Multan.
Read More: Pakistan’s tail help team secure thrilling 1-wicket win against Afghanistan in second ODI
Chasing a target of 343 runs, Kushal Bhurtel signalled his intent hitting boundaries off the first two balls. Nonetheless, Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was effective with the new ball, dismissed Bhurtel (8) and skipper Rohit Paudel for a duck, leaving Nepal at 10/2 in the opening over. In the next over, Naseem Shah removed Aasif Sheikh, with Iftikhar Ahmed taking a catch at slips. This led to Nepal finding themselves at 14/3 in just 1.4 overs.
During the powerplay, Aarif Sheikh and Sompal Kami held the innings together in the first 10 overs to reach 47/3. Aarif was on 14 while Kami made 15, the two batsmen unbeaten. Nepal reached the 50-run mark in 10.4 overs. The partnership between Aarif and Kami yielded 50 runs. However, Haris Rauf ended their 59-run partnership by dismissing Aarif, cleaning up his stumps for 26 off 38 balls. By then, Nepal were at 73/4 in 14.4 overs.
Kami fell to Rauf a couple of overs later, departing for 28 off 46 balls following an exceptional catch by Mohammed Rizwan. This triggered a rapid succession of wickets, with Mohammed Nawaz bowling out Dipendra Singh Airee, and Shadab Khan removing Gulsan Jha (13) and Sandeep Lamicchane (0). Nepal found themselves tottering at 91/8. They reached the 100-run mark in 22.5 overs.
Shadab secured his third wicket, dismissing Kushal Malla for six, thanks to a catch by Iftikhar at mid-off. Nepal was at 104/9. Shadab added to his tally by trapping Lalit Rajbanshi lbw for zero. Nepal concluded their innings at 104 all out, losing the match by a significant margin of 238 runs. Shadab was Pakistan’s standout bowler, claiming 4/27. Haris Rauf (2/16) and Shaheen (2/27) also made valuable contributions with two wickets each, while Nawaz also secured a wicket.
Earlier, fiery centuries by captain Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed propelled Pakistan to a mammoth total of 342/6 in the opening game of the Asia Cup. Babar Azam set a record as the captain with the highest individual score in the Asia Cup, amassing 151 runs, while Iftikhar powered his way to an unbeaten 109 runs.
Opting to bat first, Pakistan encountered a challenging start, losing their opening batters Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq for 14 and 5 runs respectively within the first seven overs. Pakistan’s score slipped to 25/2 in 6.1 overs.
Following the early dismissals, Pakistan’s batsmen Mohammad Rizwan and Babar worked to steady the innings, propelling the score to 44/2 during the initial powerplay. Pakistan reached the 50-run mark in 11.1 overs. Babar and Rizwan maintained a steady partnership, accumulating runs at a run rate of approximately 5 runs per over. Their partnership helped Pakistan reach 100 runs in 21.2 overs, with Babar hitting a boundary behind square.
Nepal struck back by running out Rizwan, who scored 44 off 50 balls, ending his 86-run partnership with Babar. Pakistan were 111/3. Their fourth wicket fell quickly, as Lamichhane dismissed Agha Salman in the 27.5th over, reducing the score to 124/4 in 27.5 overs. Babar then reached his fifty in the 29th over off 72 balls.
Iftikhar Ahmed exhibited his aggressive shots, punishing Kushal Bhurtel with two fours in the 34th over, and Sompal Kami with a four and a six in the next over. Iftikhar’s dynamic play enhanced the run rate, leading Pakistan to reach the 200-run mark in 38 overs after he struck a boundary. Iftikhar reached his fifty in only 42 balls, with Babar following suit and reaching his century in the very next delivery. Babar’s hundred came in 109 balls.
Read More: India lose T20I series 3-2 to West Indies
After finding his 19th ODI century, Babar shifted gears and started aggressively taking on the bowlers, hitting boundaries. Iftikhar propelled Pakistan to the 250-run milestone with a six in the 44th over. In the 45th over, Babar and Iftikhar accumulated 20 runs by punishing Sompal, hitting three fours and a six.
Babar smashed two consecutive sixes off Lamichhane in the 46th over to help Pakistan collect 19 runs. Pakistan swiftly reached the 300-run mark in 47 overs. Babar achieved his 150 off 129 balls in the 48th over, becoming the first captain to attain such a milestone in the Asia Cup. Iftikhar also marked his splendid century in style, needing only 67 balls and hitting a boundary in the 48.5th over.
After a scintillating knock of 151 off 131 balls, Babar was dismissed by Sompal in the last over. In the final delivery, Nepal claimed the wicket of Shadab Khan, bringing Pakistan’s innings to a close at 342/6.