Pakistan marked the return of Sri Lanka with a 3-0 Twenty20 series whitewash on Sunday, as officials hoped the match will help re-establish the country’s reputation for hosting international cricket.
The third and final Twenty20 match, which Pakistan comfortably won by 36 runs at Gaddafi stadium in Lahore, was Sri Lanka’s first since their team bus was attacked near the same venue in March 2009.
The first two matches, which Pakistan won by seven and two wickets respectively, were played in Abu Dhabi before Sri Lanka flew to Lahore in a 24-hour fly-in, fly-out arrangement.
A rampaging Pakistan side did not show any mercy to their opponents as they piled up 180-3 in their 20 overs after the visitors had won the toss and opted to field first against the hosts.
Sri Lanka, in pursuit of Pakistan’s 181-run target, lost early wickets and managed to score 144 runs in their allotted 20 overs.
Shoaib Malik, the only player from both the sides to have also featured in the fateful 2009 Lahore Test, smashed a 24-ball 51 with five boundaries and two sixes.
He added 75 for the third wicket with Babar Azam (34 not out) in just 45 balls. Openers Umar Amin (37-ball 45 with a six and three boundaries) and Fakhar Zaman (27-ball 31 with three fours) were the other contributors.
Pace bowler Mohammad Amir, playing his first international match before the home crowd after making his debut soon after the terrorists’ attacks, finished with a career-best 4-13 as Sri Lanka managed 144-9 in 20 overs.
Only Dasun Shanaka batted with aggression during a 36-ball 54 with five boundaries and three sixes before he became one of Faheem Ashraf’s two wickets.
This becomes Pakistan’s second 3-0 whitewash in a Twenty20 series, having previously beaten the West Indies in UAE last year.
Trailing 2-0 in the series, Sri Lanka brought in all-rounder Chaturanga de Silva in place of Ashan Priyanjan.
Pakistan made two changes from the side which won the second Twenty20 by two wickets in Abu Dhabi.
They brought in paceman Mohammad Amir and Umar Amin in place of injured fast bowler Usman Shinwari and the out-of-form Ahmed Shehzad.
Amir is playing his first international match at his home ground.
Cricket comes home
Earlier, the cricket teams arrived at the heavily-guarded stadium on Sunday afternoon, DawnNewsreported.
Fans also made their way to the stadium to watch the first international cricket match featuring a major Test-playing team on Pakistan soil since the 2009 terror attack.
Najam Sethi, in a message shared on Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) Twitter page, welcomed fans and Lahore’s residents to the stadium, saying that “it [today] was a historic day”.
Air surveillance will be in place during the match with fans having to go through various checkpoints and body searches.
Cricket-starved fans bought tickets in large numbers to witness Sunday’s match despite the series already being won by Pakistan.
“What’s important to me is that we are hosting an international match and show the world that it’s safe to play in Pakistan,” said Ghulam Abbas, a college student. “I think after the West Indies tour, the doors of international cricket will be wide open in Pakistan.”
Sri Lanka played two Tests, five one-day internationals and the first two Twenty20 matches of the series in the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan’s neutral venue since 2009.
Sri Lanka team lands in Lahore
The Sri Lankan cricket team arrived at Lahore’s Allama Iqbal International Airport in the early hours of Sunday to play the the final Twenty20 International match at a heavily-guarded Gaddafi Stadium.
According to DawnNews, the team received a warm welcome in the city and was escorted to their hotel amid tight security.
The team and their officials were taken to a five-star hotel in a bomb-proof bus with hundreds of security guards on the roads and at the resort.
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Sri Lankan Captain Thushara Perera expressed joy upon his arrival in Pakistan and said that his team would try and give their best on the field today.
“Its nice to be in Pakistan again,” said Perera, who was part of the World XI last month. “We are thankful for a warm welcome and will do our best to entertain the crowd with some good cricket.”