Roaring crowds, drum rolls, a flurry of sixes and the new innovation – the Gangnam style dance – the first Twenty20 fixture between the International World XI and Pakistan All Stars XI had it all, as it brought back the National Stadium Karachi to life on Saturday.
Captained by the mercurial Shahid Afridi, Pakistan All Stars XI claimed an 84-run win, after a fiery bowling spell from Tabish Khan and half-centuries from Shahzaib Hasan and Umar Akmal.
The opening of the two back-to-back matches proved to be a huge success, as 34,000 spectators packed the stadium to soak up the return of international cricket to the country for the first time since 2009, when terrorists attacked the Sri Lankan team in Lahore.
Batting first, the home-side scored a mammoth 222 runs in 20 overs, before reducing the visitors to 138-8. Hasan exploited three dropped catches to strike a 24-ball 54, including six boundaries and four sixes.
Akmal hit an unbeaten 67 as Pakistan All Stars XI compiled an intimidating score in front of the capacity crowd. Afridi played a brief cameo, scoring 18 off seven deliveries, including two sixes. Thandi Tshabalala took three wickets, while Afghan bowler Shaproon Zadran claimed a brace.
In response, the International World XI got off to a shaky start, from which they could not recover, with Zadran top scoring with 42 runs. Captain Sanath Jayasuriya and his men failed with the bat. Meanwhile, West Indies legend Alvin Kallicharan who is the coach of visiting team declared cricket as ‘eventual winner’.
An inspired Tabish Khan claimed a hat-trick to register figures of 3-25, while Wahab Riaz claimed a brace.
Former West Indies Test cricketer Adam Sanford, who is a part of the visiting team, told The Express Tribune that, “I feel as safe here as I do at my home. The security arrangements are fine and I am enjoying cricket in front of this enthusiastic crowd.”
West Indies legend Alvin Kallicharan, coach of the visiting team, declared cricket as the ‘eventual winner’. “I am very happy to see such a response,” Kallicharan added. “I hope these matches will help the revival of international cricket in the country. The people here are hungry for cricket and deserve international cricket action.”
Fans welcome stars
Meanwhile, avid fans were delighted to see top cricket stars in action on their home soil once more.
“It is a great moment for us. These matches hold a lot of importance for us as it is the first step towards revival [of international cricket in Pakistan],” said Mohammad Ali, holding the national flag.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2012.