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IND vs PAK, Asia Cup 2023: Babar Azam's 151 rings the danger bell for India

Babar Azam hit 151 against Nepal in the opening match of Asia Cup 2023. It rang the danger bells for Team India. The two arch-rivals clash on Saturday, September 02, in Babar's next game

Babar Azam playing against Nepal in the Asia Cup 2023 opener at Multan. Photo: PCB

Babar Azam playing against Nepal in the Asia Cup 2023 opener at Multan. Photo: PCB

Abhishek Singh New Delhi

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If India's coach Rahul Dravid and captain Rohit Sharma were watching the opening game of the Asia Cup featuring hosts Pakistan and Nepal, they would have had their ears up in attention as Babar Azam showed his batting range. The Pakistani skipper hit 151 to guide his team to a huge total of 342 in 50 overs. But it is not the amount of runs that would worry the Indians, but rather how they were scored.

Babar shows depth in batting

If Virat Kohli is a chase master, Babar surely knows how to set up a target. The 28-year-old, who scored a total of 151 runs in 131 balls, started slowly as the wicket was not the best to bat on in the afternoon. The other players around him weren't going great guns either and as a result, it forced him to adapt to a momentum-building role.

The number one ODI batter soon found an able partner in Iftikhar Ahmed and after scoring his first 50 runs in 72 balls, started switching gears. He took just 58 balls to score his next 100 runs as Pakistan hammered the Nepal bowlers for 129 runs in the last 10 overs.

Babar, for the first time in his career, hit three consecutive sixes in an ODI game as well. The ability to absorb pressure and then milk the bowlers in the death overs is making him dangerous as the days pass.

Babar Azam's innings progression

First 20 runs- 25 balls
Next 30 runs- 47 balls
Next 50 runs- 37 balls
Next 50 runs- 21 balls

Records that Babar smashed

Like Kohli, every game that Babar hits a century in sees records tumbling and this one was no different. His gigantic score of 151 made him reach his 19th ODI century, thereby taking him just one behind Saeed Anwar among Pakistani batters with the most centuries in ODIs.

With three centuries in T20 internationals and nine in Tests, the total centuries count for Babar has now reached 31, which is joint fourth highest for all Pakistani batters. Younis Khan leads this list with 41 centuries to his name.

Babar's 19th century came in his 102nd innings in ODI cricket, which is two innings fewer than what Hashim Amla needed to get to 19 centuries. Kohli took 124 innings to reach that milestone.

However, the biggest milestone achieved in this innings for Babar was the highest score by a captain in an Asia Cup match, surpassing the likes of Kohli, MS Dhoni, Inzamam Ul Haq, and Kumar Sangakkara. His 151 surpassed the previous record of 136 held by Kohli, who hit the runs against Bangladesh in the 2014 edition of the tournament.

Babar's score of 151 also became the second-highest score by a batter in Asia Cup history. The highest individual score in an Asia Cup game was scored by Virat Kohli against Pakistan in the 2012 edition.

Babar's form coming into the Asia Cup

Coming to the Asia Cup, Babar Azam had been in amazing form in limited-overs cricket. He hit two centuries against Afghanistan in the three-match ODI series in Sri Lanka. But before that, Babar had hit a century in the Lanka Premier League and a century and two fifties in a five-match ODI series against New Zealand at home.

In the PSL, Babar was at the top as always, hitting five fifties and a century in 11 innings. Babar had begun 2023 with two fifties in ODIs against New Zealand.

In total, from January 2023 till the time he would play against India in the Asia Cup 2023 on 2 September 2023, Babar has accumulated 1,321 runs in 30 innings in white-ball format. He has hit three centuries and 12 fifties at an average of 44.

It's not just Babar: Why should India be worried?

But the problem is, it's not just Babar Azam that India needs to worry about. Winning eight out of their last nine ODIs, Pakistan have shown that they are deservingly at the number one rankings. Shaheen Afridi was bringing the ball back to the right-hander at an extreme pace, while Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf were hardly even needed to bowl. Shadab Khan was brilliant with the ball, and thus it is the whole package that India needs to worry about.

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First Published: Aug 30 2023 | 11:44 PM IST

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