MULTAN: Pakistan bowling unit decimated Nepal after centuries from captain Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed as the host kicked off their Asia Cup 2023 campaign with a statement 238-run victory.
Set to chase a mammoth 343, Nepal’s batting lineup failed completely and could only accumulate 104 before being bundled out in the 24th over.
The associate side got off to a poor start to the pursuit as they lost three wickets inside two overs with just 14 runs on the board.
Following the early slump, Aarif Sheikh and Sompal Kami stabilized the run chase with a gutsy 59-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
The pair frustrated the Pakistan bowlers before Haris Rauf provided a much-needed breakthrough by dismissing Aarif Sheikh, who could score 26 off 38 deliveries, hitting five boundaries.
Aarif’s dismissal sparked collapse and Nepal began to lose wickets at an alarming rate and consequently slipped from 73/3 to 104 all out.
Sompal Kami waged a lone battle for Nepal with a cautious 46-ball 28 which featured four boundaries.
Besides Sompal and Aarif, only Gulsan Jha (13) managed to make it into the double figures.
Shadab Khan led the bowling attack for Pakistan with 4/27, followed by two wickets each from Shaheen Shah Afridi and Haris Rauf while Naseem Shah and Mohammad Nawaz made one scalp each.
Opting to bat first, Pakistan piled up a massive total of 342/6 in 50 overs at the back of a marathon 151-run knock by skipper Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed’s maiden century.
Babar Azam scored a classy 151, while Iftikhar Ahmed wreaked havoc on Nepal bowlers with an unbeaten 109.
The hosts Pakistan had a shaky start after winning the toss with both opening batters back to the pavilion inside seven overs with only 25 runs on board.
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan then helped rebuild the innings as they added 86 runs for the third wicket before Mohammad Rizwan perished courtesy of a direct hit. He scored 44 runs off 50 deliveries with the help of six boundaries.
Agha Salman also followed him after adding only five runs to the total, leaving Pakistan at 124-4 in the 28th over.
Babar Azam was then joined by Iftikhar Ahmed on the crease, and together they exhibited a fiery batting display against Nepal bowlers.
They added 214 runs in only 131 balls for the fifth wicket, steering Pakistan to a mammoth total.
Babar Azam’s 131-ball 151 featured 14 boundaries and four sixes, whereas Iftikhar Ahmed scored 109 runs from 71 balls with the help of 11 boundaries and four sixes.
Nepal’s Sompal Kami picked up two wickets, while Karan KC and Sandeep Lamichhane contributed with one wicket each.