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Pakistan draw first blood

LAHORE: Sohail Khan, Rumman Raees and Shadab Khan claimed two wickets apiece as Pakistan downed visiting World XI by 20 runs in their first Twenty20 International of the Independence Cup at Gaddafi Stadium here on Tuesday evening. The second T20I will be played at the same venue on Wednesday (today). Chasing a formidable target of 198, World XI could manage only 177 for the loss 7 scalps in 20 overs. Darren Sammy’s belated attempts at taking his side across the line were in vain, as the relentless Pakistan bowling attack restricted the international team. Openers Hashim Amla and Tamim Iqbal had steadily kicked off the innings against Pakistan. Both the batsmen challenged the home side’s bowling attack effectively before the entry of Raees. After Raees removed the openers in the sixth over of the innings, Pakistan spinners consolidated early gains in the second half of the innings, keeping up a consistent bowling attack that took frequent wickets without letting batsmen settle into the crease. Young Shadab captured the crucial wicket of skipper Faf du Plessis, who was caught out trying to keep the momentum going for the struggling World XI side. Grant Elliott and Tim Paine both were caught out, while David Miller was stumped off Shadab and Thisara Perera was run out on the second-last ball of the innings.

Earlier, Babar Azam hammered a scintillating knock of 86 off 52 balls as Pakistan set a daunting target for the star-studded World XI after their skipper du Plessis won the toss and put the hosts in to bat first. Pakistan racked up a solid total of 197 for the loss of five wickets in the first innings on the back of a 122-run partnership between Ahmad Shahzad and Babar despite a shaky start to the match with Fakhar Zaman falling in the first over. Azam, the highest run-scorer of Pakistan innings, smashed 10 boundaries and two sixes, reaching his second T20I half century in the 10th over of the innings. He was caught out off a delivery from Imran Tahir. 100 came up for Pakistan in the 12th over with a single off Shahzad, who was caught out by Darren in the 15th over. Perera got skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (4) and veteran Shoaib Malik (15) out within a span of two overs at the tail-end of the innings. Malik and Imad Wasim did help Pakistan score 48 runs in the last three overs. World XI’s weak bowling attack was laid surgically bare, with only their specialist bowlers – Morne Morkel and Imran – providing a semblance of control.

The World XI’s tour is a significant development for Pakistan, as the country 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 Independence Cup broke the dry spell with the first match on Tuesday while the remaining two matches will be staged at the same venue – Gaddafi Stadium Lahore – on September 13 and 15.

Earlier, the two teams, who made their way to the stadium amid tight security, were greeted by with stands packed to the rafters with cricket enthusiasts who had waited patiently for the return of international cricket to Pakistan. Over 6,000 police officials and paramilitary officers were deployed around the stadium to provide security. The star-studded series is being closely monitored by other cricket boards and if all goes well, Pakistan expects to host Sri Lanka and West Indies this year. In March, calls for the return of international cricket picked up steam after the final of the Pakistan Super League final, featuring high profile foreign players.

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