Babar, Iftikhar punish Nepal as Pakistan win Asia Cup opener by 238 runs
August 30, 2023 06:48 PM
World number one batter Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed scored punishing hundreds as Pakistan annihilated Nepal by 238 runs in the opening game of the Asia Cup in Multan on Wednesday.
Skipper Azam smashed a 131-ball 151 for his 19th ODI hundred while Ahmed scored an unbeaten 109 in 71 balls for his first as Pakistan piled up 342-6 in 50 overs.
The home team then bundled out Nepal for a mere 104 in 23.4 overs with leg-spinner Shadab Khan taking 4-27 while the pace duo of Haris Rauf took 2-16 and Shaheen Shah Afridi 2-27.
Only Sompal Kami (28), Aarif Sheikh (26) and Gulsan Jha (13) made it into double figures as they struggled against Pakistan's much-vaunted bowling attack.
The win gives Pakistan, who rose to world number one in the ODI rankings last week, an ideal start and tune up for the high profile clash against arch-rivals India in Pallekele on Saturday.
The Asia Cup is being played on a hybrid model this year with Pakistan hosting four matches and Sri Lanka nine after India refused to tour Pakistan because of political tensions.
Pakistan, India and Nepal are in Group A while title-holders Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in Group B
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh meet in Pallekele on Thursday.
Nepal, playing in the Asia Cup for the first time, had bowled well to keep the home team down to 124-4 in the 28th over but were clueless in the final overs against the onslaught from Azam and Ahmed.
The pair added a robust 214 off 131 balls for the fifth wicket, which took Pakistan to a formidable total.
Azam cracked 14 boundaries and four sixes while Ahmed hit 11 boundaries and four sixes, helping Pakistan to 129 runs in the last 10 overs including 67 in the final five.
Azam was dropped on 55 when Karan Chhetri put down a caught-and-bowled chance, while Nepal's ground fielding also often faltered.
Pakistan lost opener Fakhar Zaman for 14 in the sixth over, while Imam-ul-Haq was run out for five to leave Pakistan tottering at 25-2.
Azam added 86 for the third wicket with Mohammad Rizwan (44) before Rizwan was also run out. Agha Salman fell for five, leaving Azam and Ahmed to mount a rescue operation.
Ahmed's previous best ODI score was 94 not out against New Zealand in Karachi this year.
Fast bowler Kami was the best for Nepal with 2-85.
Pakistan 342-6 in 50 overs (Babar Azam 151, Iftikhar Ahmed 109 not out, Mohammad Rizwan 44) v Nepal 104 in 23.4 overs (Shadab Khan 4-27)
Result: Pakistan won by 238 runs
Playing Thursday: Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, Pallekele