Pakistan face Nepal as Asia Cup begins

By our correspondent
MULTAN: The much-anticipated Men’s ODI Asia Cup 2023 is finally here and it begins tomorrow with Pakistan, the top-ranked One-Day International side, taking on Nepal in the Group-A clash at the Multan Cricket Stadium. The contest marks many firsts as Nepal, as a team, and Multan, as a venue, make their debuts in the continental tournament. It is also a maiden contest between Pakistan and Nepal at the top level.
The atmosphere in the picturesque Multan Cricket Stadium promises to be electrifying for the Wednesday clash. Both teams will receive tremendous support from the cricket-loving Multan fans. The fans will be treated with an absorbing opening ceremony before the match, which begins at 1430 PKT time.
Pakistan’s last outing in Multan in the format was in June last year and the home side enjoyed resounding success over the West Indies by thrashing them 3-0 in the three-match series. The team has played 10 ODIs here and won seven.
“It is always a great feeling to play in front of the passionate Multan crowd and we all are very excited that the Asia Cup is beginning from this city,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said on the eve of the contest. “I want to congratulate Nepal for qualifying for the Asia Cup and I hope that their participation will give a boost to the development of the sport in the country. We are looking forward to playing Nepal and I am sure it will be a good contest.”
Pakistan enter the Asia Cup with momentum on their side. They topped the ICC rankings for ODI teams on Saturday after securing a 3-0 whitewash over Afghanistan in Sri Lanka. This is the second instance of the team surmounting the chart since April. Pakistan also boast the best win/loss ratio of 2.750 with 22 wins in 31 matches since in this World Cup cycle.
The team has enjoyed success across formats at home and away recently. In April-May, they levelled the T20 International series 2-2 and won the five-match ODI series 4-1 against New Zealand, whitewashed Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in the two-Test series in July and defeated Afghanistan 3-0 in ODIs in Sri Lanka this month.
Reflecting on whether there is an added pressure for being the top-ranked side, Babar said, “I would not say that there is a pressure. Rather, we enter this tournament with more confidence. This team has put in a lot of hard work and effort over the last few years and we achieving the top spot is a testimony of it. The job, however, is not done as we want to win the Asia Cup and the World Cup. We have some competitive and exciting next few months lined up and we are eager to do well for our country.”
“Every player in this side wants to win matches for his country and raises their hand. They are always ready to put in the hard yards and never shy away from tough and difficult situations. We have had some amazing last few months and now it is time to build on the momentum.”
Pakistan will fly to Sri Lanka on 31 August to play India in the second Group-A match on 2 September at Kandy. The venue will also host the third and final match of the group between India and Nepal on 4 September.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafique, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Haris (wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Salman Ali Agha, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi and Usama Mir. Traveling reserve: Tayyab Tahir

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