LAHORE: Everyone was expecting a battle of attrition between Pakistan and World XI in the final game of the three-match T20 Independence Cup after the two teams had won one match each but it turned into a one-sided affair here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday night.
Electing to bat, Pakistan hammered 183 for four and the World XI in its bid to maintain the run-rate lost its struggle at 150 for eight, handing the final match by 33 runs and the series to team green 2-1. And with that Pakistan enjoyed the return of international cricket with a win.
The World XI that claimed the second match of the series by seven wickets after a late blitz from Thisara Perera and scripted innings from Hashim Amla, caved in to Pakistan’s two partnerships, the first between openers Fakhar Zaman and Ahmed Shehzad and the second of the latter with Babar Azam. And the disciplined bowling from hosts was a plus in this win.
The first partnership yielded 61 runs but the later stand left the guests’ attack spineless with a 102 runs. Ahmed who could not develop his previous two innings into half centuries, found the mojo to get 89 runs, aided with 11 boundaries, including three sixes. But a poor coordination between Ahmed and Babar between the wickets cost the opener his wicket at 163.
Fakhar in his opening partnership with Ahmed made 27 runs and later Babar, other partner of Ahmed, made 48 in 31-ball. After Ahmed was run out, Shoaib Malik came in to hit two sixes in his not out 17 runs to give a total worth fighting for his bowlers and to the enjoyment of the crowd. Perera chipped in with two wickets.
The return of international cricket to Pakistan cannot be better than the triumph of the national team on its debut series at home since 2009. The crowd not only enjoyed every bit of the series but also with their presence made the series worth remembering for the world of cricket, the World XI and the International Cricket Council alike. They also had the opportunity to have a glimpse of their former stars when they took a farewell lap or lap of honour on rickshaws. Former Pakistan Test Captain Misbahul Haq was the first to take a round and was welcomed by claps and similar respect was accorded to Afridi when he took the round of the stadium.
Misbah was presented with the Imtaiz Ahmed Spirit of Cricket and Geo News Lifetime Achievement awards in a star-studded PCB annual awards ceremony on Thursday night. However, Afridi, who was also invited to the ceremony, did not attend the event, giving rise to speculations of a tussle between the board and the player.
Pakistan was playing for honour, respect and pride for having a first chance of performing at home and for the World XI it was much bigger that was just cricket because they brought the game to Pakistan, deprived of international stars’ presence here for eight long years.
To honour their support, Lahoriites bent upon in numbers to the stadium to enjoy and to cheer the stars that made the occasion to remember. The fans pushed their creative energies to come decked up in all shapes and sizes. And special credit must go out to army and police personnel apart from the PCB and the city district government who worked tirelessly to ensure this a safe experience for all involved.
Pakistan must be ruing its chances of not finishing off the series in the second game after winning the opener by 20 runs. But had that happened, the interest would have been lost in the series.
Right from the word go, Pakistan bowlers developed pressure on the World XI batsmen, getting Tamim Iqbal at 12, Ben Cutting at five, the danger man Amla at 21 (run out), George Bailey (three) and the World XI at 53 for four by the 8th over. Even before the end of the 10th over, five World players were back in the pavilion with its captain Faf du Plessis being the last at 67 runs.
Perera in the 13th over smacked three back to back sixes and a four to Shadab Khan pegging back initiative a bit the World XI way. But Rumman Raees turned the tide in Pakistan favour by taking Perera’s wicket after a diving catch from Babar at 32, inclusive of two fours and three sixes. His guiles took the total to 112 but the remaining players, David Miller 32, Mornie Morkel (one), Sammey 24 not out and Sameul Badree not out failed to get among the required run-rate.
With three run outs, Hasan Ali had two while Imad, Usman Khan and Rumman shared one wicket each. Like the 5th March of the year, September 12, 2017 was a historic day in the history of the country with the initiation of the T20 cricketing tournament, in which our very own cricketing champions and those of the World XI, brought life back to the Gaddafi Stadium.
After tireless and laudable efforts by the PCB and the rousing success of the second Pakistan Super League 2017, Pakistan witnessed the rise of ‘cornered tigers’.