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Pakistan Holds First Top-Level Cricket Match Since 2009 Terror Attack


Pakistani spectators cheer at the start of the first Twenty20 international match between the World XI and Pakistan at the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore on September 12.

Play has concluded in a cricket match conducted under heavy security in Lahore, the first top-level competition held in Pakistan since a terror attack in 2009 scared off the sport's top teams.

The Pakistani team scored a 20-run win over the World XI squad on September 12 before a capacity crowd of 25,000 in the city's Gaddafi Stadium.

The match against the World XI team, made up of 14 players from seven top cricket-playing nations, was the first high-level competition in Pakistan since terrorists struck the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009.

Eight people -- six police officers and two civilians – were killed and seven players and staff were injured in that attack.

The Pakistani team had been forced to play most of its "home" games in the United Arab Emirates after foreign teams avoided the country over security concerns.

The match organized by the Pakistan Cricket Board was the first of three scheduled Twenty20 competitions this week, with the second scheduled for September 13 and the third for September 15.

If the matches are conducted without incident, Pakistan would likely host Sri Lanka for a Twenty20 in October, followed by three Twenty20s against the West Indies in November.

Pakistan's Babar Azam, who won man-of-the-match honors, dedicated his performance to "the people of Pakistan, because it's always nice to play in front of home fans."

The Pakistani government and Cricket Board were anxious to maintain security and demonstrate that the country is safe enough to host major sporting events, especially highly popular cricket matches.

On September 10, a spokesperson for the government of Lahore's Punjab Province said authorities were providing "foolproof security for the World XI with a big contingent of security officials deployed."

Some 9,000 police and paramilitary forces cordoned off the area around the players' hotel and the stadium.

Fans began arriving at the venue hours ahead of the match time. They were required to show their national identification cards and go through at least four security checkpoints to enter the stadium.

Many fans displayed banners, including ones reading "World XI whole nation welcomes you in Pakistan" and "Thanks for coming."

"It's a huge occasion for world cricket and it's something much bigger than the game," South African star Faf du Plessis said. "Great to see we can play a small part in bringing cricket back to Pakistan."

With reporting by AFP and AP

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