Asia Cup

Pakistan started Asia Cup with a Bang – Defeated Nepal by 238 runs

In the opening encounter of the men’s Asia Cup 2023, Babar Azam showcased a brilliant ODI batting performance, accumulating 151 runs off 131 deliveries, guiding Pakistan to a commanding victory over Nepal by a substantial margin of 238 runs.

In the challenging conditions of Multan’s pitch, Pakistan initially faced some setbacks as Nepal’s bowlers made early breakthroughs. During this phase, Babar played a steadying role, cautiously constructing his innings and taking 72 balls to reach his half-century. As the innings progressed, he gradually accelerated, transitioning from 51 to 100 runs in just 37 balls. Once he reached the century mark, he switched to a more aggressive T20-style approach, smashing 51 runs off the subsequent 22 balls.

This match exemplified what Suryakumar Yadav had remarked earlier, as Babar skillfully demonstrated the ability to adapt his batting to all three formats of the game.

Babar partnered with Iftikhar Ahmed, who contributed a remarkable unbeaten 109 off 71 balls, forming a crucial fifth-wicket partnership of 214 runs in just 131 deliveries. This partnership propelled Pakistan’s total to 342 for 6. During the chase, Babar did not participate in the field, with Shadab Khan assuming the captaincy responsibilities. However, this change had little impact, as Nepal faltered and was dismissed for a mere 104 runs in 23.4 overs.

Nepal Cricket team, making their debut in the Asia Cup and facing Pakistan Cricket team for the first time across any format, exhibited signs of inexperience and nervousness on multiple occasions. This was evident from the initial overs itself, as Sompal Kami delivered a couple of deliveries down the leg side, resulting in boundaries for Fakhar Zaman. Despite their early struggles, Nepal found relief through the sluggish pitch conditions and effective fielding.

Both Fakhar and Imam-ul-Haq encountered difficulties in timing due to the pitch’s lack of pace. Fakhar’s attempt to hit a length ball from Karan led to an outside edge, skillfully caught by wicketkeeper Aasif Sheikh stretching to his left. In the subsequent over, Rohit Paudel executed a direct hit from mid-off, dismissing Imam who fell short of the crease.

With Pakistan at 25 for 2, Babar and Mohammad Rizwan initiated the innings’ recovery. Displaying controlled and calculated batting, they managed to add boundaries to their innings, guiding Pakistan to 100 runs in the 22nd over.

However, Nepal struck back with their fielding prowess, exemplified by Dipendra Singh Airee’s accurate throw from cover that found Rizwan’s bat off the ground as he attempted to evade the throw, resulting in his dismissal for 44 runs off 50 balls.

Agha Salman’s brief stay at the crease witnessed a series of unconventional shot attempts, none of which yielded runs. His dismissal came via a misjudged reverse sweep off Sandeep Lamichhane, caught at short third man. With Pakistan in a precarious position at 124 for 4, Babar remained unperturbed.

Babar displayed proficiency against spin, effectively using the cut shot to rotate the strike and eventually reaching his fifty in 72 balls. Despite Nepal’s occasional fielding excellence, they were unable to contain Babar’s onslaught. His frequency of boundaries escalated as he neared his century, which he ultimately reached in 109 balls, punctuated by another skillful cut shot against spin.

Subsequently, Babar unleashed a barrage of aggressive shots. In the 45th over, he hammered Sompal Kami for consecutive boundaries followed by back-to-back sixes off Sandeep Lamichhane.

Meanwhile, Iftikhar Ahmed played even more aggressively. His fearless approach became evident from the outset, striking a six off Kami’s bowling to become the innings’ first player to clear the boundary. He achieved his maiden ODI hundred in just 67 balls, capitalizing on Nepal’s struggling bowling attack. In total, Iftikhar registered 11 fours and four sixes, as Pakistan gathered 129 runs in the final ten overs.

During Nepal’s chase, Shaheen Shah Afridi took two wickets in the opening over, dismissing Kushal Bhurtel and Rohit Paudel. Naseem Shah followed up by dismissing Aasif Sheikh in the next over, reducing Nepal to 14 for 3. While Aarif Sheikh and Sompal Kami managed to forge a partnership of 59 runs, their resistance proved fleeting as Haris Rauf dismantled both batsmen in quick succession.

Both Shaheen and Haris experienced a minor setback due to the humid weather conditions, briefly leaving the field to recover energy after their initial spells. However, Nepal’s lower order was ill-equipped to counter Shadab Khan’s diverse spin variations. Shadab claimed the final four wickets, finishing with impressive figures of 4 for 27.

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