Pak­istan mark re­turn of in­ter­na­tional cricket by beat­ing Sri Lanka

Stabroek News - - STABROEK SPORT -

LA­HORE, Pak­istan, (Reuters) - Pak­istan marked the re­turn of in­ter­na­tional cricket to the coun­try with a rip-roaring 36-run Twenty20 vic­tory over Sri Lanka in front of a packed sta­dium in the eastern city of La­hore yes­ter­day.

Pow­ered by a light­ning 51 off 24 balls by Shoaib Ma­lik and a bowl­ing at­tack led by pace­man Mo­ham­m­mad Amir, the hosts made sure the fans would en­joy a night to re­mem­ber as Pak­istan fi­nally hosted an in­ter­na­tional cricket fix­ture on home soil af­ter be­ing shunned by for­eign teams for eight years due to se­cu­rity risks.

Pak­istan’s iso­la­tion be­gan when a 2009 mil­i­tant at­tack on the Sri Lankan team’s bus in La­hore left six se­cu­rity per­son­nel and two civil­ians dead while six play­ers were in­jured.

Since then, Pak­istan have been forced to play des­ig­nated ‘home’ matches pri­mar­ily in the United Arab Emi­rates.

“I’d like to thank the Sri Lankan team... this is some­thing we have missed for many years,” Ma­lik said af­ter pick­ing up the man-of-the-match award.

“Thanks for invit­ing us, we re­ally love you guys,” said Sri Lanka cap­tain This­ara Per­era, whose side were beaten 3-0 in the series with the first two matches hav­ing taken place in Abu Dhabi.

Af­ter Sun­day’s game, ju­bi­lant Pak­istani fans ex­it­ing the sta­dium danced and played drums on the streets of La­hore.

“I can­not for­get that hor­ri­ble day when the Sri Lankan team was at­tacked,” said cricket en­thu­si­ast Altaf Akram.

“They have taken a big step. All Pak­ista­nis wel­come the Sri Lankans ... who are (now) he­roes of Pak­istan.”

Se­cu­rity for yes­ter­day’s match com­prised 16,000 police of­fi­cials and over 250 surveil­lance ve­hi­cles de­ployed around La­hore’s Gaddafi Sta­dium, a police of­fi­cial said.

“Police have taken un­prece­dented se­cu­rity mea­sures for (the) match,” Deputy In­spec­tor Gen­eral Haider Ashraf told Reuters, adding that aerial surveil­lance and CCTV cam­eras were also be­ing utilised.

“Police snipers have been de­ployed at all high build­ings around Gaddafi Sta­dium,” he added.

Pak­istan of­fi­cials hope Sun­day’s match will en­cour­age other coun­tries to send their teams by next year.

West Indies have al­ready com­mit­ted to a tour although the dates have yet to be fi­nalised, cricket board chair­man Na­jam Sethi told Reuters.

Plans to bring cricket to other Pak­istani cities are also un­der­way with four do­mes­tic T20 fix­tures from the Pak­istan Su­per League (PSL) com­pe­ti­tion planned in south­ern me­trop­o­lis Karachi.

“We want to hold two dou­ble head­ers in Karachi mid­way through the PSL and then have the fi­nal in La­hore,” he said.

“Sri Lanka, West Indies, PSL, the next slot which is open to Pak­istan and any other coun­try, there will be cricket here, I guar­an­tee you that.”

The Pak­istan cricket team cel­e­brates af­ter their rip-roaring 36-run T20 vic­tory over Sri Lanka yes­ter­day in La­hore.

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