Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed's centuries guided Pakistan to a convincing victory over Nepal in the Asia Cup's first match

Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed’s centuries guided Pakistan to a convincing victory over Nepal in the Asia Cup’s first match

In the opening match of the Asia Cup, Pakistan dominated debutants Nepal with a commanding 238-run victory. Pakistan’s skipper, Babar Azam, delivered a brilliant performance, scoring 151 runs, while Iftikhar Ahmed recorded his first ODI century, amassing 109 not out. These formidable innings propelled Pakistan to a commanding total of 342 for six after opting to bat.

Babar’s exceptional knock comprised 14 fours and four sixes, while Iftikhar’s destructive innings featured 11 boundaries and four maximums. Their partnership of 214 runs for the fifth wicket was particularly instrumental in Pakistan’s imposing total.

However, Pakistan’s innings didn’t begin on an impressive note as they lost both openers early in the match. Despite this initial setback, Babar and Iftikhar’s exceptional partnership ensured Pakistan’s dominance.

In response, Nepal faced a daunting task, and it proved to be an uphill battle from the start. Kushal Bhurtel showed promise initially with consecutive boundaries off Shaheen Shah Afridi’s first two deliveries. However, Afridi made a stunning comeback by dismissing Bhurtel and Nepal’s captain Rohit Paudel in the same over.

Naseem Shah continued the onslaught by inducing an outside edge from Aasif Sheikh, which was expertly caught by Iftikhar. Nepal’s top order crumbled as wickets fell at regular intervals.

Although Aarif Sheikh and Sompal Kami tried to stabilize Nepal’s innings with a 59-run fourth-wicket partnership, Haris Rauf’s breakthroughs hindered their progress. Rauf dismissed Aarif Sheikh and Sompal Kami in quick succession.

Following these vital breakthroughs, Nepal’s batting order collapsed, and they were ultimately bowled out for a mere 104 runs in 23.4 overs. Leg-break bowler Shahdab Khan was particularly effective, claiming four wickets for just 27 runs.

Earlier in the match, Pakistan had faced early setbacks as Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq were dismissed early in their innings. However, Babar and Mohammad Rizwan’s partnership helped stabilize Pakistan’s innings. While Babar played the role of an anchor, Rizwan displayed his attacking instincts during their partnership.

The partnership between Babar and Rizwan was initially slow, but they gradually accelerated, rotating strike and finding boundaries to bring up Pakistan’s 100 runs in the 22nd over. However, Rizwan’s innings was cut short when he was run out at the non-striker’s end.

Salman Agha also fell quickly to Sandeep Lamichhane, leaving the responsibility on Babar’s shoulders. Babar reached his half-century in the 29th over and then proceeded to build his innings aggressively alongside Iftikhar.

Iftikhar’s aggressive approach appeared to inspire Babar, as both players began to unleash an array of boundaries. Babar eventually reached his century in the 42nd over, falling just seven runs short of his personal best score.

The partnership between Babar and Iftikhar proved to be the turning point in the match, with Iftikhar securing his maiden century off just 67 balls. Their attacking play left the Nepalese bowlers helpless as fours and sixes rained down.

In the end, Pakistan secured a comprehensive victory, underlining their dominance in the opening match of the Asia Cup.

Asia Cup 2023 - six6s login
Asia Cup 2023 – six6s login

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