Pakistan showcased a formidable middle-order performance in their recent triumph over Afghanistan and continued the trend in the opening match of the Asia Cup 2023 against Nepal on August 30. Opting to bat first, Pakistan encountered two quick wicket losses on two separate occasions before the partnership of captain Babar Azam and Iftikhar Ahmed took center stage.
Babar Azam, displaying his exceptional form, amassed 151 runs, marking his 19th century in ODIs. Meanwhile, Iftikhar Ahmed showcased his prowess by securing his debut ODI century, remaining unbeaten with 109 runs from just 71 balls. The duo’s partnership contributed a remarkable 214 runs for the fifth wicket, propelling Pakistan to a commanding total of 342/6 in 50 overs. In addition to Babar’s milestone, Ahmed achieved a notable feat in Pakistan’s cricket history.
At 32 years and 361 days old, Ahmed became the second oldest Pakistani player to achieve his maiden ODI century. The record-holder remains Zaheer Abbas, who attained his first ODI century at the age of 34 years and 146 days against Australia in 1981.
Iftikhar Ahmed’s innings unfolded in two distinct phases, with his initial fifty runs coming off 43 balls, followed by an impressive acceleration in the second half with another 50 runs in just 24 balls. His century off 67 balls secured his place among the fastest centuries for Pakistan in ODIs. He shares the joint fifth position on the list with Shahid Afridi. The top three places are held by Shahid Afridi with centuries off 37, 45, and 53 balls, followed by Sharjeel Khan and Basit Ali who achieved ODI hundreds in 61 and 67 balls respectively.
In the pursuit of a substantial target of 343 in 50 overs, Nepal found themselves struggling against Pakistan’s pace trio of Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah, and Haris Rauf. Nepal’s innings ended at a mere 104 runs in 23.4 overs. The initial wickets were shared by pacers, with Mohammad Nawaz dismissing Dipendra Singh Airee. Shadab Khan, the leg-spinner, further solidified Pakistan’s dominance by claiming four wickets, including the final two in just three deliveries, finishing with an impressive 4/27 in 6.4 overs. As a result, Pakistan clinched victory by a commanding margin of 238 runs.