No 1 ranked Pakistan play Asia Cup opener against Nepal today

LAHORE - The Men’s ODI Asia Cup 2023 is finally here and it begins today (Wednesday) 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 today’s 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. 

Captain Babar said: “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 achieving the top spot is a testimony to 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,” Babar concluded. 

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 (capt), Shadab Khan (vc), Abdullah Shafique, Fa­heem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, If­tikhar Ahmed, Imam-ul-Haq, M Haris (wk), M Nawaz, M Rizwan (wk), M Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Salman Ali Agha, Saud Sha­keel, Shaheen Afridi and Usama Mir.

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