World XI's Tamim Iqbal (R) plays a shot as Pakistan's wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmad looks on during the 1st T20I at the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore on September 12. -AFP
Pakistan Tuesday took a giant step towards reviving international cricket at home with a 20-run victory over the World XI in a match before excited crowds amid tight security. The Twenty20 match, accorded international status by the International Cricket Council, is the first game of only the second series Pakistan has hosted since militants attacked the bus of the visiting Sri Lankan team in March 2009, killing eight people and injuring seven players and staff.
Long before it began at 7:00pm (1400GMT), around 9,000 police officers and paramilitary forces were deployed to the area, cordoning off the team's hotels and stadium. But the large security presence did little to temper the enthusiasm of fans in the cricket-mad country. "I came here early to watch the teams come but that was not possible due to security so I only watched them in the ground and it made my day," said spectator Azfar Ali.
Pakistan, sent into bat by World XI skipper Faf du Plessis, notched 197-5 with Babar Azam hitting a rapid 52-ball 86. His career best Twenty20 score had ten boundaries and two sixes.
The second game is on Wednesday and the third on Friday - both in Lahore. Du Plessis said it would be a "quick turnaround, I don't think I've ever played two T20s in two days". Pakistan hopes the series will showcase an improved security situation as it seeks to entice other foreign opponents. Sri Lanka are due to play a T20 in October.
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