Babar Azam was all fired up in the Asia Cup 2023 opener against Nepal in Multan on Wednesday. While he began on a slow note, he battled cramps and grew gradually in confidence, the result was a 131-ball 151, consisting four sixes and 14 fours. Babar Azam (151) and Iftikhar Ahmed‘s (109 not out) centuries fired Pakistan to a huge 342 for 6. This was after Pakistan made an unimpressive start to their innings as they lost both the openers early.
Pakistan suffered yet another blow soon when Imam-ul-Haq was found short of the crease while attempting a single that was not for the taking. A direct throw from Nepal captain Rohit Paudel ended his innings. Babar was then joined at the crease by wicket-keeper batter Rizwan and the duo stabilised Pakistan’s innings.
While Babar played the role of an anchor, Rizwan showed his attacking instincts during the 86-run stand for the third wicket which came off 111 balls.
But the start of their partnership was far from rosy as the duo struggled to keep the scoreboard ticking initially with Pakistan reaching 50 in the 12th over.
The Pakistani duo kept the scoreboard ticking with ones and two thereafter and hit the bad balls to the boundary to bring up the team’s 100 in the 22nd over.
Just when he was looking threatening, Rizwan fell to a direct hit at the non-striker’s end by Dipendra Singh Airee in search of a quick single. Rizwan paid the price for not grounding his bat, something not acceptable at the highest level.
While Babar kept one end steady, Salman Agha (5) failed to trouble the scorers much, falling prey to Sandeep Lamichhane.
Babar brought up his fifty with a double in the 29th over.
But Iftikhar’s arrival gave the much-needed boost to Pakistan’s innings as he played aggressively from the onset.
Iftikhar’s approach seemed to have inspired Babar as well as he too opened up his arms thereafter and found the boundaries at will.
Babar brought up his ton off 109 balls in the 42nd over.
The duo, especially Iftikhar, toyed with the Nepalese bowlers as it rained fours and sixes at will from there on. Iftikhar brought up his maiden ton off just 67 balls.
Babar Azam’s 151 is the highest score by a captain in Asia Cup. Babar Azam is also the fastest to score 19 centuries – which is a world record. He reached the mark in 102 innings, while Hashim Amla had reached the mark in 104 innings. Virat Kohli is the third fastest to the mark in 124 innings.
Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed 214-run stand is the third highest partnership for any wicket in Asia Cup.
“Babar is a great player, World No. 1 player. It’s an awesome feeling to bat with him. He rotates strike very well and we discussed about scoring a boundary when we get a loose ball. The wicket got better to bat on as the innings progressed,” Iftikhar Ahmed said after the knock.
With PTI inputs
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