Pak­istan cel­e­brate cricket re­turn with series tri­umph

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - COMMENT -

LA­HORE, Pak­istan, Sept 15, 2017 (AFP) - Pak­istan cel­e­brated the re­turn of in­ter­na­tional cricket with a thump­ing 33-run win to clinch the fi­nal Twenty20 match and the series against a World XI team at La­hore's Gaddafi sta­dium.

The host­ing of the short series is a ma­jor step to­wards con­vinc­ing in­ter­na­tional teams to be­gin tour­ing Pak­istan again, with Sri Lanka al­ready due to play a Twenty20 match in La­hore on Oc­to­ber 29.

For­eign teams have re­fused to tour Pak­istan since a mil­i­tant at­tack on the Sri Lankan team bus in La­hore in March 2009.

Un­der Sar­fraz Ahmed, Pak­istan team out­played the World XI -with crick­eters from seven coun­tries -- in Friday's de­cider to match the im­por­tant oc­ca­sion by claim­ing the series 2-1.

Pak­istan had won the first match by 20 runs on Tues­day be­fore World XI lev­elled the series with a seven-wicket vic­tory in the sec­ond on Wed­nes­day.

World XI cap­tain Faf du Plessis hailed the series as a big step and suc­cess.

"This has been a huge suc­cess," said du Plessis. "We wanted to come here and play a small part in cricket com­ing back to Pak­istan. Thank ev­ery­one for the op­portu- nity for com­ing here.

"We were jok­ing about it, the blokes were say­ing we should do this every year. For a lot of guys who don't play a lot of in­ter­na­tional cricket these days, this was ter­rific com­pe­ti­tion against a strong Pak­istan side."

Bat­ting for World XI, only This­ara Per­era, with a 13-ball 32 in­clud­ing three sixes and two fours, and David Miller, who hit a 29-ball 32, made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions.

Oth­ers never got go­ing in a shaky chase which saw three World XI bats­men run out. Pak­istan pacer Hasan Ali fin­ished as the best bowler with fig­ures of 2-28.

Pak­istan had piled up 183-4 af­ter they were sent into bat by World Xi skip­per Faf du Plessis.

Pak­istan's in­nings was built around opener Ahmed She­hzad's 55-ball 89 and a 31-ball 48 by Babar Za­man. The two added 102 runs for the sec­ond wicket af­ter Pak­istan lost Fakhar Za­man for 27.

She­hzad fell 11 short of his sec­ond Twenty20 hun­dred as he at­tempted a sin­gle off a wide ball. He cracked eight bound­aries and three sixes.

His and Pak­istan's only hun­dred in a Twenty20 in­ter­na­tional had come against Bangladesh dur­ing the World Twenty20 tour­na­ment in 2014.

Shoaib Ma­lik hit two sixes in his seven- ball 17 not out as Pak­istan added 58 in the fi­nal five overs to reach 183.

Sri Lankan seamer Per­era was the pick of World XI's bowlers with 2-37 in his four overs.

Dur­ing the in­nings break the Pak­istan Cricket Board ar­ranged a lap of hon­our for re­tired greats Shahid Afridi and Mis­bah-ul-Haq. The two were given a stand­ing ova­tion by a packed 25,000 crowd.

The series was ar­ranged as part of Pak­istan's ef­forts to bring back in­ter­na­tional cricket to the coun­try, which has only hosted Zimbabwe for a lim­ited- over series in 2015.

Pak­istan hopes the suc­cess­ful stag­ing of this series will help them host Sri Lanka for a Twenty20 in­ter­na­tional on Oc­to­ber 29, at the end of their full series in the United Arab Emi­rates.

A month later they are also likely to host the West In­dies for three Twenty20 matches.

Pak­istani crick­eters pose for a photograph with tro­phy af­ter win­ning the third and fi­nal Twenty20 In­ter­na­tional match against World XI at the Gaddafi Cricket Sta­dium in La­hore - AFP

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