In the opening encounter of the Asia Cup, Pakistan annihilated Nepal by 238 runs, with the help of centuries from captain Babar Azam (151) and Iftikhar Ahmed (100), both making their ODI debuts.
Pakistan crushed tiny Nepal by 238 runs in the opening encounter of the Asia Cup on Wednesday in Multan. Skipper Babar Azam produced a magnificent 151, and Iftikhar Ahmed hammered his first ODI century. Having elected to bat first, Pakistan was propelled by the efforts of Babar and Iftikhar to a score of 342. After a slow start, Babar (151 runs off 130 balls) was a part of two vital partnerships that helped Pakistan reach their massive total. He first put up 86 runs with Mohammad Rizwan (44 runs off 50 balls), and then he put on 214 runs for the fifth wicket with Iftikhar (109 not out off 71 balls).
Babar smacked 14 fours and 4 sixes during his knock, while Iftikhar, at his destructive best, hit 11 fours and 4 sixes.
This came after a lackluster beginning to Pakistan’s innings (they lost both openers quickly).
Nepal always faced an uphill battle, and the job proved to be Herculean.
Kushal Bhurtel got Nepal’s chase off to a rousing start with two consecutive fours off of Shaheen Shah Afridi, but his heroics were cut short when the ace left-armer made a magnificent return to dismiss both Bhurtel and Nepal’s captain, Rohit Paudel, in the successive two balls of the over.
Nepal’s score dropped to 14-3 after Naseem Shah contributed an over later by inducing an outside edge from Aasif Sheikh, which was seized on by Iftikhar on the first flip.
The fourth-wicket stand of 59 runs between Aarif Sheikh (26) and Sompal Karmi (not out) attempted to calm the ship until Haris Rauf ran through the defense of the former.
An hour later, Rauf got rid of Nepal’s leading scorer, Sompal (28), and the Himalayan country was reduced to 82 for 5.
The Nepalese batting lineup then collapsed like a house of cards, losing wickets at the rate of nine in a row, and being bowled out for 104 in 23.4 overs.
The Nepali tail was swept up by leg-break bowler Shahdab Khan, who finished with a remarkable 4 for 27.
Earlier, Fakhar Zaman (14) had begun promisingly but was dismissed in the sixth over off the bowling of Karan KC, caught by a diving Nepal wicketkeeper Aasif Sheikh.
Another blow was dealt to Pakistan not long after when Imam-ul-Haq was out trying to steal a single. His innings were interrupted by a direct throw from Nepal’s captain, Rohit Paudel.
When wicketkeeper-batsman Rizwan joined Babar at the crease, the two of them steadied Pakistan’s innings.
During their 86-run stand for the third wicket off 111 balls, Babar served as the team’s anchor while Rizwan displayed his attacking prowess.
Although they eventually reached 50 for Pakistan in the 12th over, things didn’t look so well at the beginning of their partnership.
By switching off at the crease and sending the wrong deliveries over the ropes, the Pakistani pair helped the side reach 100 runs in the 22nd over.
When Rizwan was at his most menacing, he was bowled by a direct hit from the bowler’s end by Dipendra Singh Airee, who was aiming for a single. Rizwan paid the price for not grounding his bat, which is mandatory at the professional level but not at the amateur one.
While Babar held things together at one end, Salman Agha (5) was no match for Sandeep Lamichhane.
Babar hit a double in the 29th over to reach fifty and reach the century mark.
But the introduction of Iftikhar, who played aggressively right away, provided Pakistan with a much-needed jolt.
Babar followed Iftikhar’s lead and began exploring his surroundings without fear of hitting a wall.
Babar reached his century in the 42nd over, after facing 109 balls.
The pair, but especially Iftikhar, played with the Nepalese bowlers, who were showered with fours and sixes. Iftikhar scored his first hundred in only 67 balls.
Babar came within seven runs of his record score.