It has been two years since a team toured Pakistan last with Zimbabwe playing a short limited over series. But if the bigwigs of world cricket are concerned, there have been no major series in the country since 2009. And on Tuesday all that changed with World XI playing Pakistan in first of three T20I matches. Played in Lahore, the traffic snarls extended for a long distance much before the first ball was bowled with the Gaddafi Stadium packed to the brim despite strong security presence to avoid any untoward incident from happening. International cricket in the country has been mostly non-existent since the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by terrorists in Lahore in 2009 which wounded six players and killed two civilians and six security officials. In what can be seen as a romantic turn of events, umpire Ahsan Raza, who received two gunshot wounds in the 2009 attack, wasn’t deterred by the events and was one of the two on-field officials for Tuesday’s match.
“I saw international players for the first time in my life… It was fascinating watching quality cricket,” student Omar Khan said to Reuters. “It was fun seeing national and international cricketers playing in Lahore. Pakistan’s victory is a bonus to me,” said Malika Ali, another fan, who came to the ground with her family.
The media hailed the return of cricket to the country highlighting the grand welcome for the players, the security presence and the smiles on the faces of fans in attendance.
The Dawn went with a picture of World XI players making an entrance to the stadium as their front page image with detailed reports going on the sports pages. Besides the match report highlighting Babar Azam’s splendid 86 run knock, the paper carried information on the security detail with presence of former cricketers Wasim Akram and Shahid Afridi.
The inside pages of The Dawn took a look at the strong security cover. More than 6,000 police officials and paramilitary officers were deployed around Gaddafi Stadium, as per provincial government spokesman Malik Muhammad Ahmad Khan.
Express Tribune‘s front page headline read “Cricket triumphs as Pakistan vanquish the World” with further description reading, “Nation celebrates revival of international cricket at home with victory”. This sat alongside World XI team’s arrival photo. The inside page looked back at the eight year period during which Pakistan played their “home” matches in Dubai.
International News’ Lahore edition didn’t go all out with the contest on its front page but had more of a look in the inside page. Besides the report, the political side of it also found a place with an article suggesting political slogans were banned. It also captured the fans outside the stadium not minding the severe checking that came with the momentous occasion.
Pakistan won the first T20I by 20 runs with the second match slated to take place on Wednesday.