Cricket returns to Pakistan amid tight security


FAST BOWLER Tabish Khan achieved a hat trick while Umar Akmal and Shahzaib Hasan hit rapid half centuries as the Pakistan All Stars defeated an International World XI by 84 runs in a Twenty20 on Saturday.

The exhibition match before a capacity crowd of 35,000 at the National Stadium marked the return of international cricket of a sort in Pakistan after 3 1/2 years. All major test teams have avoided Pakistan since the deadly attack on the Sri Lanka team convoy at Lahore in March 2009.

Pakistan posted a mammoth 222-7 with Akmal unbeaten on 67 off 37 balls and opening batsman Hasan escaping three dropped catches to score 54 off 21 balls with six boundaries and four sixes.

Khan then clean bowled Ricardo Powell (5), Jermaine Lawson (0) and Thandi Tshabalala (0) off successive deliveries to restrict an International World XI made up of Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies and Afghanistan players to 138-8.

Top-level security involving more than 5000 police and para-military officials was in place as cricketstarved fans in Pakistan finally got to see some live international action for the first time in more than three years.

The country has been a nogo area for international athletes since March 2009 when militants attacked the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, which left six Pakistani policemen and a van driver dead.

On Saturday, local officials and security personnel put an elaborate security plan into place for the first of two Twenty20 exhibitions in which a Pakistan All Star XI took on an International World XI side.

“We had drawn up a proper security plan for the teams and even their routes were kept a secret,” DIG police Shahid Hayat, who supervised the security operation, said.

A convoy of 12 police vans with an ambulance in tow drove the teams into the stadium.

“We know how important these matches are to convince the international cricket community that Pakistan is still a safe place for visiting teams,” the Governor of the Sindh province, Dr Eshratul Ebad, told reporters.

World XI skipper Sanath Jayasuriya, who led a team mostly made up of former internationals, added: “It is a grand occasion for Pakistan cricket and we are happy to be part of these matches.”

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