Pakistan cricket lovers set for international return
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) Pakistan defeated Zimbabwe by five wickets in the country's first international match against a major team in six years on Friday in a stadium encircled by police and filled to capacity.
The crowd of 27,000 endured frequent security checks to watch Pakistan reach 173-5 in the first Twenty20 international after the visitors had posted a decent 172-6.
Fans packed the stadium at least two hours before the Twenty20 between Pakistan and Zimbabwe, the first test-playing team to visit this country since gunmen attacked the Sri Lanka team outside this venue in 2009, bringing all major tours to Pakistan to a halt.
Pakistan's opening batsman Mukhtar Ahmed hit 83 off 45 balls with a dozen fours and three sixes and shared a 142-run first wicket stand with Ahmed Shehzad, who scored 55 off 39 balls.
Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain shook hands with both teams before the match started and the president of Zimbabwe Cricket, Wilson Manase, stood next to Hussain for the national anthems.
Earlier, in temperatures of 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit), fans were delighted to see cricket being played again in the country.
''Who cares about this hot weather and at how many places I was checked by the security officials, I am just here to see the return of international cricket in my own country,'' said fan Waqas Zulfiqar, wearing a Pakistan jersey.
The teams arrived at the stadium in a fleet of vans carrying armed guards more than two hours before the match. Two helicopters hovered over the stadium.
Pakistan pledged blanket security to the visitors to persuade them to come, with at least 4,000 police and paramilitaries deployed to avoid a repeat of the 2009 attack, which killed six police and a driver.
Dozens of CCTV cameras were installed around Nishtar Park, which holds Gaddafi Stadium.
The extraordinary security included making spectators pass through at least three checkpoints. Tickets for both Friday's and Sunday's T20s were sold out within two days, after they went on sale this week.
Hundreds of home team fans - mostly youngsters - wandered around outside seeking prized tickets.
Farhan Ishaque, who came from Faisalabad, was not sure of getting hold of a ticket but said he would not go home. ''It's a historic moment for Pakistan and I don't want to miss the atmosphere,'' he said.