Big Panorama A Monumental Event for Nepal
Nepal are competing in their first Asia Cup. They are interacting with Pakistan for the first time in any capacity. It is a monumental occasion for them, a day of celebration regardless of the outcome on the field.
Nepal’s participation in this Asia Cup demonstrates their emergence as a formidable cricketing force. They qualified by winning the ten-team ACC Men’s Premier Cup in April-May, besting teams such as UAE and Hong Kong that have participated in previous Asia Cups. Prior to that, they won 11 of 12 ODIs to ascend improbably up the ODI World Cup League 2 standings and secure a spot in the ODI World Cup qualifying tournament.
Having only been granted ODI status in 2018, Nepal are now ranked a tantalizing 15th in the format, a sign of how near they are to attaining even greater goals, given that the next ODI World Cup will feature 14 teams in 2027.
Pakistan, meanwhile, will presumably play one of only two games at home during a tournament they are ostensibly hosting. Such are the circumstances in which we live. Fans in Multan would be wise to endure the forecasted maximum temperature of 38 degrees Celsius in order to capture a rare glimpse of their heroes.
Within the Limelight
Pakistan are putting together a promising ODI middle order after years of being overreliant on their top three, and Agha Salman deserves much of the credit for this. He has a 40-plus average and a 100-plus strike rate through his first 14 games. In recent months, he has been in excellent form: he followed an excellent home ODI series against New Zealand with aggressive Test knocks of 83 and 132* on the tour of Sri Lanka, and he enters the Asia Cup on the heels of a crucial unbeaten 38 that ended an otherwise uneventful series against Afghanistan on a positive note.
Dipendra Singh Airee’s 50 ODI average of 19.93 is not particularly impressive, but he enters the Asia Cup with a fair measure of confidence. In July, the middle-order batsman excelled at the World Cup qualifier in Zimbabwe, scoring 79 runs without being dismissed to lead Nepal to a three-wicket victory over UAE in the seventh-place playoff. He then had the opportunity to play alongside Andre Russell, Shakib Al Hasan, and Chris Lynn in the Global T20 Canada, where he contributed a number of effective 20s to the championship-winning Montreal Tigers.
Pakistan has an abundance of all-rounders and may have to leave out Faheem Ashraf or Mohammad Nawaz – or both – in order to accommodate Mohammad Wasim, who claimed four wickets for Pakistan A against Nepal in the July Emerging Cup.
Pakistan (likely): 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Imam-ul-Haq, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Agha Salman, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Faheem Ashraf/Mohammad Nawaz/Mohammad Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi/Naseem Shah/Naseem Shah, 10 Naseem Shah
Due to a hand injury sustained in Nepal’s match against Zimbabwe, Sompal Kami’s participation in the World Cup qualifier was cut short. He will spearhead the pace attack alongside Karan KC upon his return to ODI action.
Nepal (likely): 1 Kushal Bhurtel, 2 Aasif Sheikh (wk), 3 Bhim Sharki, 4 Rohit Paudel (captain), 5 Kushal Malla, 6 Dipendra Singh Airee, 7 Gulsan Jha, 8 Sompal Kami, 9 Karan KC, 10 Sandeep Lamichhane, and 11 Lalit Rajbanshi.
The Pitch and Weather
Last year, all three One-Day Internationals (ODIs) played during the West Indies’ tour of Pakistan were held in Multan. All three matches yielded first-innings scores greater than 250, with Pakistan chasing 306 in the opening ODI. Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, and Akeel Hosein took the most wickets in that series, and if conditions are comparable, spinners can be expected to play a significant role once more. The temperature is expected to reach the upper 30s (Celsius) and be muggy and arid.
Facts and Figures
Babar Azam has achieved 18 hundreds in 101 ODI innings. In 244 at-bats, Saeed Anwar, the only Pakistani batter ahead of him on the century list, scored 20 runs.
Nepal (51) has played more One-Day Internationals than Pakistan (31) during this World Cup cycle. Only Afghanistan (27), Canada (5), and Jersey (5) have participated in fewer One-Day Internationals than Pakistan.