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Asia Cup

Babar & Iftikhar partnership saved Pakistan against Nepal

Asia Cup

In the opening game of the 2023 Asia Cup, Babar Azam delivered a clinic in one-day international batting, smashing 151 off 131 balls to help Pakistan thrash Nepal by 238 runs.

Nepal had made early inroads on a difficult Multan surface, leaving Pakistan in a vulnerable situation. During that time, Babar extended the innings and needed 72 balls to achieve his fifty. He increased the pace gradually and went from 51 to 100 in 37 balls. When he hit 100, he switched into T20 mode and scored 51 runs off the next 22 balls.

ODIs are difficult because you must bat like in all three forms, according to Suryakumar Yadav, who recently made that claim. Babar demonstrated how to accomplish it on Wednesday.

Pakistan reached 342 for 6 thanks to a fifth-wicket stand of 214 runs off 131 balls between Babar and Iftikhar Ahmed, who scored an unbeaten 109 off 71. Shadab Khan led the team throughout the chase when Babar didn’t come out to field the ball. It didn’t really matter because Nepal was dismissed for just 104 runs in 23.4 overs.

Nepal was competing in their first Asia Cup and was facing Pakistan in any format. Several times, the inexperience and possibly the jitters came through. Sompal Kami made a few leg side drifts in the first over of the game, and Fakhar Zaman helped himself to two boundaries.

However, Nepal was saved by the slow pitch and some excellent fielding. Timing was a problem for Fakhar and Imam-ul-Haq since the ball did not come onto the bat. Aasif Sheikh, the wicketkeeper, stretched to his left to snare Fakhar’s thick outside edge as he launched his bat at a length delivery from Karan. In the following over, Rohit Paudel struck Imam short with a direct hit from mid-off.

Babar and Mohammad Rizwan resumed resuming the innings when Pakistan reached 25 for 2. They brought the team to 100 in the 22nd over while playing risk-free cricket and still scoring the occasional boundary.

But then Nepal responded once more by fielding. This time, Rizwan’s bat and both of his feet were in the air as the batter attempted to avoid being struck by the throw when Dipendra Singh Airee, bowling from cover, struck the stumps at the bowler’s end. Rizwan would have been secure if he had grounded his bat and run normally. Out of 50 balls, he made 44.

In the first three balls he faced, Agha Salman attempted a reverse sweep and a sweep from far outside off, but neither shot resulted in any runs for him. He attempted a second reverse sweep off Sandeep Lamichhane three over later, but was unable in keeping it down and caught at short third.

Pakistan was in trouble at 124 for 4, but Babar remained unfazed. He rotated the strike effectively against spin and reached his fifty in 72 balls.

While Nepal occasionally played players resembling the World XI, other times they resembled the Ilford Second XI. They dropped Babar on 55 after dropping Imam on 5 earlier, in addition to several other causal attempts that resulted in misfields.

Babar forced them to pay. He began to locate the edge more frequently, and in 109 balls, he reached his hundred. It was only fitting that he reached the milestone on another cut stroke against spin.

Even more violent was Iftikhar’s approach from the other side. In reality, it was his knock that made it possible for Babar to gently change the gears.

Iftikhar started attacking as soon as he entered the crease. In the 35th over, he blasted Kami over deep midwicket to hit the first six of the innings. He needed just 67 balls to reach his first ODI hundred against an ineffective Nepali attack. Iftikhar totaled 11 fours and 4 sixes as Pakistan amassed 129 runs in the final ten overs.

The first over of the chase saw Shaheen Shah Afridi take two wickets. Before trapping Paudel for a first-ball duck, he first strangled Kushal Bhurtel down the leg side. Aasif caught at first slip during the following over by Naseem Shah, making the score 14 for 3.

Aarif Sheikh and Kami added 59 runs in 78 balls to stabilize the innings, but they couldn’t hold on against Haris Rauf’s pace. Aarif cleaned up first, and Kami was then left behind. The only obstacle Pakistan’s fast bowlers had was the humid weather, which forced Shaheen and Haris to leave the field after their first spells to take a break.

The lowest order of Nepal couldn’t compete with Shadab’s variants. He took the final four wickets by combining his legbreaks and googlies, finishing with 4 for 27.

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