Sports Desk: Pakistan thrashed a star-studded World XI team by 20 runs in the premier match of the Independence Cup series at Lahore's Gaddafi stadium on Tuesday.
The three-match Twenty20 international series set entirely in Lahore signals another step towards the revival of international cricket in the country, which has seen little action on home turf since the 2009 terror attack targeting the Sri Lankan cricket team.
The relentless Pakistani bowling attack restricted the visiting team to 177 runs with 7 men down in chase of the 198-run target set by the green shirts, despite Darren Sammy's best efforts to take his team across the line.
After Rumman Raees took two early wickets in the sixth over of the innings, spinners consolidated early gains in the second half of the innings, keeping up a consistent strike that took frequent wickets without letting batsmen settle into the crease.
Young Shadab Khan 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 were also caught out, while David Miller was stumped off Shadab and Thisara Perera was run out on the second-last ball of the innings.
The Pakistani total of 197 for the loss of five wickets was bolstered by a 122-run partnership between Ahmed Shehzad and Babar Azam despite a shaky start to the first innings with Fakhar Zaman falling in the first over.
Azam, the highest run-scorer this innings, was awarded Man of the Match. He smashed 10 boundaries and two sixes, leaving the pitch with 86 runs off 52 balls under his belt ─ his highest ever T20I score ─ after being caught out off a delivery from Imran Tahir.
World XI skipper du Plessis said after the match: "It was a good game. I thought Pakistan played exceptionally well."
Du Plessis won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat first but Sarfraz appeared unfazed, telling Ramiz Raja the green shirts had "wanted to bat first anyway".
It was the first time many of the younger players on the team played an international game on home turf to a crowd of cheering Pakistanis.
Du Plessis was happy to "play a small part in bringing cricket back to Pakistan.
"It's not about egos," he said before play began. "It's an honour to lead the World XI."
risingbd/Sept 13, 2017/Mukul