Pakistan to face World XI in first T20 today

LAHORE (Web Desk) – The first Twenty20 International of the three-match Independence Cup between Pakistan and World XI will be played here at the Gaddafi Stadium today (Tuesday).

After a gap of eight years, top international cricketers are touring Pakistan in the form of World XI squad. The World XI squad comprising 13 players from seven top cricket-playing nations landed in Lahore early Monday amid massive security, with Pakistan hoping the tour will end years of international isolation.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Najam Sethi and other officials were present at the Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore to welcome the World XI squad.

West Indies  Samuel Badree was the only player in the 14-man squad who reached Lahore on Tuesday morning due to his commitment with the CPL.

Pakistan has not hosted top-level international cricket — barring five limited over matches against minnows Zimbabwe in 2015 — since the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by terrorists in March 2009, killing eight people and injuring seven players and staff.

The World XI, which will play three Twenty20 internationals from Tuesday, arrived around 2:00am Pakistan time (2100 GMT) with air surveillance and dozens of police vans in attendance as the team was whisked to their hotel.

Both the hotel and stadium will be cordoned off with 9,000 police and paramilitary staff deployed during the next five days.

The World XI is led by South African skipper Faf du Plessis and coached by former Zimbabwe batsman and ex-England coach Andy Flower.

Since the 2009 attack Pakistan have been forced to play most of their “home” games in the United Arab Emirates — with the PCB complaining they have incurred losses of around $120 million.

On the field, Pakistan will start favourites in their first outing since their remarkable victory at the 50-over Champions Trophy in England in June.

The World XI are led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis and feature his countrymen Hashim Amla and David Miller, plus Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal and Australia’s George Bailey in strong batting line-up.

They have also tempted out of retirement at the age of 41 the captain of England’s 2010 World T20-winning side, Paul Collingwood.

A potent bowling attack comprises South Africa’s Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir, with Australian Ben Cutting and West Indies’ Samuel Badree and Darren Sammy.

“I am positive that this series will serve to open the doors of international cricket in Pakistan,” said PCB chairman Najam Sethi.

Support from the International Cricket Council (ICC) has been crucial.

The ICC have accorded international status on the matches, which will be played on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and are sending former West Indian great Richie Richardson as referee.

“The ICC wants to see regular international cricket being played safely in all its member countries and the World XI playing in Lahore is a step towards that for the PCB,” said ICC chief executive David Richardson.

“We are optimistic that this will be the next step in a steady and safe return of international cricket to Pakistan.”

Whatever the result, if it passes without incident it will pave the way for a further, hugely symbolic step: the return of Sri Lanka next month.

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