Pakistan will begin its campaign in the Asia Cup on Wednesday, taking on Nepal in the city’s sweltering heat as multi-team international cricket returns to the country after nearly 15 years.
It has been a long, rough road for Pakistan cricket ever since the militant attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in March, 2009.
Following the attack, not only did Pakistan lose the Champions Trophy hosting rights but also its share of the World Cup matches in 2011.
With the International Cricket Council (ICC) and member nations reluctant to visit the country because of security reasons, Pakistan went without an international game at home for nearly eight years against top-tier teams.
Which is why, the four matches of the Asia Cup being held in the country hold great significance for Pakistan, who have also been awarded the 2025 Champions Trophy.
Pakistan, which recently rose to No. 1 in ODI rankings after a clean sweep of the ODI series against Afghanistan in Sri Lanka, should win comfortably against Nepal, which is playing its first Asia Cup.
Only two Nepal players, leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and all-rounder Dipendra Singh Airee, have the experience of playing in T20 leagues.
Barring Lamichhane, who has played in the Pakistan Super League, the others know very little about the playing conditions in Multan.
Having got its ODI status in 2018, Nepal is ranked 15th in the 50-over format, a sign of how close it is to achieving its dream of featuring in the 2027 World Cup, which will be a 14-team affair.
Having arrived in Pakistan a week back, it will be interesting to see how it fares against an outfit that is one of the favourites to lift the Asia Cup.
Pakistan will play just two games at home and the remaining in Sri Lanka, including the big one against India. But the game against Nepal will offer its players a good opportunity to fine-tune their game.
Babar Azam recently hit two half-centuries against Afghanistan, and only a big one will satisfy the home team’s fans.
With the weather expected to be hot and humid, both teams will rely heavily on their spinners to do the job.
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