King Babar, Iftikhar guide Pakistan to a huge win in Asia Cup opener

By our correspondent
MULTAN: Skipper Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed hammered super hundreds to enable Pakistan whip minnows Nepal by 238 runs in the opening match of Asia Cup here on Wednesday.
Pakistan, whole Riding on the batting heroics of Babar and Iftikhar, posted a huge total of 342-6 in 50 overs.
Pakistan then folded Nepal for a paltry total of 104 thanks to Shafab Khan’s genius bowling.
Nepal completely failed to negotiate Pakistan’s pacers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah in their opening spell. And later, they were unsettled by the spin of Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz before being skittled out cheaply.
Shadab came up as the lead striker taking four wickets for 23 followed by Shaheen and Rauf with two wickets each for 27 and 16 runs respectively. Naseem and Nawaz grabbed one wicket each.
The only Nepalese batter who reached double figures included Aarif Sheikh (26), Sompal Kami (28) and Gulsan Jha (13). The main feature of their batting was the 59 runs partnership of Aarif and Sompal.
Earlier, Babar smashed a 131-ball 151 while Iftikhar scored an unbeaten 109 in 71 balls for his maiden hundred in Pakistan´s 50 overs. Nepal, playing in the Asia Cup for the first time, had bowled well to keep the home team down to 124-4 in the 28th over but were clueless in the final overs against the onslaught from the duo. The pair added a robust 214 runs off 131 balls for the fifth wicket, which brought Pakistan back into the game after Babar won the toss and opted to bat.
Banar cracked 14 fours and four sixes while Iftikhar hit 11 boundaries and four sixes and their fiery batting also helped Pakistan fetch 129 runs in the last ten overs including 67 in the final five. Babar was dropped on 55 when Karan Chhetri put down a caught-and-bowled chance while Nepal´s ground fielding also often faltered.
Pakistan lost opener Fakhar Zaman for 14 in the sixth over, while Imam-ul-Haq was run out for five to leave Pakistan tottering at 25-2. Babar added 86 for the third wicket with Mohammad Rizwan (44) before Rizwan was also run out. Agha Salman fell for five, leaving Babar and Iftikhar to mount a rescue operation.
Iftikhar´s previous best ODI score was 94 not out against New Zealand in Karachi this year. Fast bowler Sompal Kami was the best for Nepal with 2-85.
The Asia Cup is being played on a hybrid model this year with Pakistan hosting four matches and Sri Lanka nine after India refused to tour Pakistan because of political tensions.

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