Lahore welcomes touring team

2012-04-04 18:03
Pakistan Cricket Board (File)

Lahore - Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium opened its gates to a foreign team on Wednesday for the first time since a terror attack on the Sri Lankan team bus forced a halt to international cricket in Pakistan.

It was near the Gaddafi Stadium - Pakistan's cricket headquarters - that militants opened fire on the visiting Sri Lankans as they made their way to the ground for the third day of the second Test in March 2009.

Eight people were killed and seven touring players and their assistant coach were wounded. No internationals have been played in Pakistan since.

A British Universities side took on a Pakistan Cricket Board Under-19 XI at the Gaddafi on Wednesday, losing the 50-over match by a huge 302-run margin.

While the contest may have been one-sided, Pakistani officials hope the presence of an overseas side will encourage others to follow -- and ultimately lead to a return of international fixtures to the cricket-mad country.

"It's a great development that some foreign players, no matter University players, have played a cricket match at Gaddafi Stadium and it will give them a positive picture about Pakistan," Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) director Intikhab Alam told AFP.

The attacks meant Pakistan also lost hosting rights for their World Cup matches last year, and the team have been forced to play their "home" matches at neutral venues, mostly in the United Arab Emirates.

The PCB is trying to convince international teams to return and has invited Bangladesh to play a limited-overs series later this month.

Earlier this month the Bangladesh Cricket Board sent a delegation to assess security for their team and said they were awaiting government clearance on the tour.

Alam said when the University players went back to Britain they would tell people about the situation in Pakistan.

"I am sure that when these boys go back home they will tell some positive things about Pakistan and not what is portrayed in the media," Alam said.

On the field the British Universities went down tamely as the PCB XI piled up a mammoth 388-2 in their 50 overs, with Sami Aslam notching an unbeaten 207 and Umar Waheed making 100 not out.

In reply, the Universities were bowled out for a paltry 86 in 27 overs with Brendon McKerchar top-scoring with 24. Usman Qadir and Mohammad Nawaz took four wickets apiece.

The Universities will play a second and final game of their tour here on Friday.

Despite the heavy defeat, McKerchar said he was happy to be playing in Pakistan.

"I have played cricket in many countries but this is my first time in this part of the world and I am delighted at that," he told Pakistan television.

"It's unfortunate what happened in Lahore three years ago, but Pakistani people love cricket and I am sure they will make sure such an incident doesn't take place again because cricket is very important for them."

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