June 16, 2024

PAK Vs NEP, 1st Match, Group ABabar, Iftikhar tons headline Pakistan’s big win against Nepal.

PAK Vs NEP, 1st Match, Group A
Babar, Iftikhar tons headline Pakistan’s big win against Nepal.

Babar Azam’s 19th ODI hundred and Iftikhar Ahmed’s maiden ton came in a record 214-run association for the fifth wicket as Pakistan posted an imposing 342/6 against Nepal after opting to bat in the opening game of Asia Cup 2023 in Multan on Wednesday (August 30). There were late cuts, sweep shots, straight hits, one-handed pulls, plenty of flicks and powerful shots through midwicket in the 14 fours and 4 sixes scored by Babar in his 131-ball 151 while Iftikhar lived up to his big-hitting reputation as he struck 11 fours and 4 maximums in his 71-ball stay for 109 as they left Nepal with an uphill task.

Sompal Kami strayed on the pads and was put away for a couple of boundaries by Fakhar Zaman in the opening over. But both Kami and Karan KC were otherwise disciplined, bowling straight lines to keep the openers in check. But Pakistan didn’t take long to pick up pace as Zaman struck a well-timed cover drive off Karan while Imam-ul-Haq executed a back-foot punch through cover off Kami for his first four. Imam also got a lucky break as he put down at gully in the same over. But Zaman departed at the other end, going hard at an away going delivery from Karan only to edge to the ‘keeper. An accurate throw from Nepal captain Rohit Paudel found Imam short of the crease to leave Pakistan two down in the seventh over.

Rizwan dealt in boundaries off the spinners, including a first-ball four off Sandeep Lamichhane, as he built a steady partnership with Babar. The Pakistan captain was happy to rotate the strike initially before collecting boundaries while Rizwan continued to add to his fours tally, bringing out the sweep shots, as they extended their partnership past 50 and took Pakistan past the 100-run mark in the 22nd over. But the stand, worth 86, came to an abrupt halt when Rizwan failed to ground his bat at the non-striker’s end taking off for a single and was found short of the crease. Agha Salman struggled against the spinners before his attempted reverse-sweep resulted in a wicket for Lamichhane.

Babar Azam | Pakistan Captain and Player of the Match: When I went in, the ball wasn’t coming on properly, so I was trying to build an innings with Rizwan. Then we had a different phase, sometimes Rizwan gave me confidence, sometimes I gave him belief. Iftikhar also played a great innings when he came on. When he came in, I told him to play his natural game and he was comfortable after 2-3 boundaries. A couple of overs we weren’t up to the mark, but the way our pacers started and then the spinners were brilliant. This win will give us the confidence, India Pakistan will always bring high intensity, we will try our best.

Rohit Paudel | Nepal captain: We started well with the ball, but both set batters took the game away from us. We have batted better before and we missed out today. Wicket taking balls were not there in middle overs, but credit to Babar for the way he batted, credit to Pakistan. Learning from the game would be we need to improve bowling in death overs, as a group we need to step up with the bat.

Shadab Khan: It was hot out there, but Sri Lanka was hot as well but Sri Lanka was more humid. I can’t talk about Babar because we all know he is a world class player, Iftikhar has done so much for much whenever he gets the opportunity. He showcased his power hitting really well today. The platform was setup for me by the pacers, Shaheen and Naseem and then Haris Rauf was amazing. The conditions will be different, I have never played there (Pallekele) but let us see. We have confidence in each other and this is the beauty of the Pakistan cricket team.

Babar, who registered his third successive fifty-plus score, had a reprieve soon after as he was put down by Karan off his own bowling. He capitalised on it as he struck regular boundaries to help Pakistan get a move on. Iftikhar Ahmed also contributed quick runs, including a six over midwicket off Kami, as the fifth wicket pair raised a brisk half-century stand to take Pakistan’s run-rate past 5 for the first time in the innings. Pakistan made good progress in the 31-40 over period, scoring 74 runs, with Nepal not doing themselves any help with plenty of misfields.

Iftikhar brought up his second ODI fifty before Babar scored a couple off Dipendra Singh Airee to reach a 109-ball ton. Babar then hit his first six, swatting away a slower delivery from Gulsan Jha one-handed. An expensive over from Sompal followed, with 20 coming off it, including two fours and a six over long-off for Babar. He also hit two sixes off Lamichhane, going over cover and playing a one-handed pull. Iftikhar was getting boundaries from the other end as well but it was Babar doing the bulk of the hitting as Pakistan crossed 300 in the 47th over.

Babar got to his second 150 in ODIs, getting there off 129 balls, with his third fifty coming off only 20 deliveries. Amidst the Babar carnage, Iftikhar reached 67-ball 100 in the penultimate over and remained unbeaten while Babar was dismissed by Kami in the final over. Pakistan, though, managed a couple of boundaries in the final over as they amassed 129 runs in the last 10 overs to post a big total.

Brief scores: Pakistan 342/6 in 50 overs (Babar Azam 151, Iftikhar Ahmed 109*; Sompal Kami 2-85) vs Nepal



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