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Tabish Khan hat-trick sets up big win

Hat-trick boy Tabish Khan helped Pakistan All Stars XI to outplay International World Xi by 84 run in the opening match of the two-match T20 series at the National Stadium in Karachi on Saturday night.

Batting first, the home team piled up 222-7 in their 20 overs. Umar Akmal, playing at home for the first time since his debut in August 2009, top-scored with 67 not out while opener Shahzaib Hasan made 54. The International World XI managed 138-8, with paceman Tabish Khan taking 3-25, including a hat-trick.

Afghanistan’s Shahpoor Zadran top-scored with 42. The second match will be played today.

The crowd witnessed the match after the lapse of three and half years after terrorists attack on Sri Lankan team in 2009 as no team toured Pakistan on security concerns.

The match was started amid tight security as Pakistan hosted the first match of an international flavour in the country since 2009. The match was organised by Sindh Sports Minister Dr M Ali Shah but backed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), is seen as a small step towards reviving international cricket in Pakistan.

Around 5,000 policemen and paramilitary staff cordoned off the stadium in a top-level security arrangement. “A top-level security plan was devised for the match with around 5,000 policeman in and around the stadium,” said a police official.  “The sweeping of the entire stadium was done 24 hours before the start of the match to eliminate the likelihood of any explosive substance or devices planted by the saboteurs,” the official said.

Around one dozen police vehicles led both the teams to the ground, with anti-explosive equipment and snuffer dogs on guard an hour before the scheduled start at 8:00pm.

“It is a grand occasion,” Jayasuriya said at the toss. All the players are excited to be the part of this match and the enthusiasm of the fans makes it a befitting occasion. “Judging by the enthusiasm it is unfortunate that Pakistan has not been able to host international matches, but this match will definitely help, maybe in a small way to bring cricket back to Pakistan.”

A colourful band welcomed both the teams at the ground, as fans settled in the stands, left vacant and unattended in the wake of Pakistan’s cricket exile. “It’s nice to see cricket back in Pakistan,” former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas said. “It is a small match but the flavour is there, the interest is there and I am glad that this happened.”

Despite the resumption of big-time cricket still a distant dream as bombings and killings are still rampant in the country, fans are hopeful bigger teams will follow suit once the security situation improves.

“We are delighted to see a cricket match finally taking place,” said Suleman Khan. “I hope other teams are also watching and change their minds about Pakistan.”

Pakistan All Star XI having 1-0 lead in the two-match Twenty20 series will take on International World XI in the second match Today.

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