Pak start Asia Cup campaign in style by beating Nepal by 238 runs

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 A gorgeous 19th ODI century by Babar Azam and a maiden ton by Ifthikar Ahmed helped Pakistan register a massive 238 runs victory over minnows Nepal in the Asia Cup opener at Multan Cricket Stadium here on Wednesday.

Batting first, Pakistan set up a mammoth 342/6, riding high on a record 214-run opening partnership for the 5th wicket.

Skipper Babar punched 14 boundaries and 4 sixes in his 131-ball 151, while Ifthikar, known for big-hitting, was merciless against Nepal bowlers as he whacked 11 boundaries and 4 sixes in 71 balls for his 109.

Nepal gave a good account for themselves till the second drinks break, and in the process tasted success by sending both openers Fakhar Zaman (14) and Imam-ul-Haq (5) when Pakistan had just put on 25 runs on the board.

Sompal Kami had Fakhar, and Imam was run out brilliantly by Rohit Paudel. Kami and Karan were on the money, keeping the openers on check with a disciplined line and length. During this period, Imam was lucky to have been put down at gully off Karan.

Mohammad Rizwan came in and took charge, accelerating the run rate by dealing in boundaries of Nepal spinners, while Babar was happy to rotate the strike after going after the bowlers in the initial stage.

Soon, Rizwan and Babar stitched a vital 86 runs partnership for the third wicket after Pakistan’s score raced past the 100-run mark off 132 balls.

Rizwan lost his wicket as he was run out by Dipendra Singh’s throw at the non-striker’s end after scoring 44 off 50 balls with 6 boundaries.

Agha Salman (5) could not capitalise against spinners, but fell to Sandeep Lamichhane while attempting to reverse-sweep.

Babar was lucky to have been dropped by Karan of his own bowling after registering his third successive fifty-odd score. He did not let this go, and put to sword Nepali bowlers.

Iftikhar too was not far behind as he expedited getting quick runs, including a mighty blow over midwicket off Kami. The duo scripted a quick 50 runs partnership, putting Pakistan’s run rate beyond 5-per-over for the first time in the match.

Babar reached his ODI century in 109 balls, and soon after Ifthikar reached his second fifty. Thereafter, Babar switched gears and belted his first one-handed six off Gulshan Jha before unleashing terror on Sompal. He smashed 2 boundaries and a six over long-off, pillaging 20 runs in the over.

Babar also hammered 2 sixes off Lamichhane, going over cover and playing a one-handed pull. Iftikhar too was belting at the other end, but it was Babar who was in a vintage mood as Pakistan crossed 300 runs mark in 47th over.

Babar reached his second 150 in ODIs off 129 balls, with his third fifty coming off only 20 deliveries. Iftikhar got to his century in 67 balls in 49th over and remained unconquered, while Babar was dismissed by Kami in the final over as they amassed 129 runs in the last 10 overs to post a big total.

In reply, Nepal managed just 104 runs in 23.4 overs.

Shaheen Afridi struck in the very first over of Nepal’s innings as he accounted for Kushal Burtel (8) and Paudel (0).

Naseem Shah also struck in his very first over, removing Aasif Sheikh for 5 caught by Ifthikar.

Aarif Sheikh (26) and Sompal built a partnership for the 4th wicket, but the raw pace of Haris Rauf proved deadly. Thereafter, the wickets started to tumble as Shadab Khan ran through the tail to end with cosmic figures of 4/27.

This defeat however was a good education for Nepal as they were outsmarted by Pakistan in batting and bowling. More than this, the fielding let the minnows down.

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