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Powerered by Babar Azam's 151 and Iftikhar Ahmed's 109*, Pakistan kicked-off their Asia Cup 2023 campaign with an  emphatic 238-run win over Nepal in Multan.

By PakPassion Staff (30 August, 2023)

In a display of cricketing brilliance, Pakistan commenced their Asia Cup journey on a high, decimating debutants Nepal by a staggering 238 runs in Multan's electrifying encounter on Wednesday.

The spotlight was undeniably on Babar Azam, the world's top ODI batter, as he carved out a masterclass 151 off just 131 balls, registering his 19th ODI century. Accompanying him in the batting spectacle was Iftikhar Ahmed, who unleashed his maiden ODI century, an explosive 109 off just 71 balls. Their combined onslaught propelled Pakistan to a mammoth score of 342-6.

Pakistan's bowling unit showcased their prowess by skittling Nepal for a paltry 104 in just 23.4 overs. Shadab Khan, with his spinning wizardry, bagged an impressive 4-27. The pace duo, Haris Rauf and Shaheen Shah Afridi, further tightened the screws with figures of 2-16 and 2-27, respectively. Only Sompal Kami, Aarif Sheikh, and Gulsan Jha offered some resistance from Nepal.

Fresh from their ascent to the top of the ODI rankings, this win offers Pakistan the perfect momentum ahead of their much-anticipated duel with arch-rivals India in Pallekele this Saturday.

This year's Asia Cup adopts a hybrid model, with matches split between Pakistan and Sri Lanka after India opted out of the Pakistan leg due to political undercurrents. The groups see Pakistan, India, and Nepal locking horns in Group A, while defending champions Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan compete in Group B.

For Nepal, despite making their Asia Cup debut, they displayed initial promise by restricting Pakistan to 124-4 in the 28th over. However, they couldn't hold back the Azam-Ahmed storm that added a whopping 214 runs for the fifth wicket in a mere 131 balls. Azam's innings sparkled with 14 boundaries and four maximums, while Ahmed's fiery knock was punctuated with 11 boundaries and four sixes. Their blitz helped Pakistan amass 129 runs in the tail-end 10 overs, with a staggering 67 coming in the last five.

Pakistan did face early hiccups, with Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq departing early. But the partnership between Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who chipped in with a handy 44, steadied the ship. Ahmed, fresh from a commendable 94 not out against New Zealand earlier this year, then joined forces with Azam to steer Pakistan to a dominant position.

For Nepal, pacer Kami emerged as the standout bowler, clinching 2-85.

Eyes now turn to Pallekele, where Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are set to face off on Thursday, promising another thrilling chapter in this year's Asia Cup saga.