Lahore: International cricket finally returned to Pakistan after a long gap of eight years as the hosts beat World XI by 20 runs in the first game of the three-match Independence Cup T20 series at the Gaddafi Stadium here Tuesday.
Put into bat Pakistan rode on a brilliant knock by Babar Azam (86, 52b, 10×4, 2×6) to post 197 for the loss of five wickets in their 20 overs and then restricted the World XI to 177 for seven to emerge victorious.
But then it was not just a game of cricket played on the day. World XI skipper Faf du Plessis while talking to reporters during and after the match said, “It’s not about ourselves, great to see we can play a small part in bringing cricket back to Pakistan. There are no egos involved.”
The match was played in good spirits with the spectators cheering every run, not only by Pakistan but by the opposition at well. The hosts rode on a 139-run partnership between Azam and Ahmed Shezad (39, 34b, 3×4) to establish a strong platform for an assault in the end overs. Former skipper Shoaib Malik (38, 20b, 4×4, 2×6) took the game away from World XI with a quickfire knock while Imad Wasim (15 n o, 4b, 2×6) added valuable runs in the last over.
Except for Imran Tahir (1/34) who returned to his homeland after a long gap of 10 years, none of the other World XI bowlers impressed as runs flowed freely with man of the match Azam and Malik tearing apart the opposition attack.
Tamim Iqbal (18), Hashim Amla (26) and Faf du Plessis (29) all got starts but failed to convert for World XI. Sohail Khan (2/28), Shadab Khan (2/33) and Rumman Raees (2/37) bowled well for the hosts and kept the opposition in check by picking up wickets regular intervals.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 197/5 (Babar Azam 86, Ahmed Shehzad 39, Shoaib Malik 38; Thisara Perera 2/51) bt World XI 177/7 (Faf du Plessis 29, Darren Sammy 29; Sohail Khan 2/28) by 20 runs.