Ten years after Pakistan was forced to host all its home matches in the neutral venue of United Arab Emirates due to the 2009 attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team, the country marked its return in ODI cricket in Karachi with a 67-run victory on the same Sri Lankan team in the second one-day international on Monday (September 30).
In January 2009, Sri Lanka played two back-to-back matches at the Karachi National Stadium as in March of the same year, during the same tour, the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked in Lahore — forcing the suspension of international cricket in Pakistan.
However, as for 2019, the team found their backbone in Babar Azam who helped Pakistan form a strong total of 305-7 as he smashed 115 off 105 balls. Babar also became the fastest Pakistani batsman to complete 1,000 ODI runs in a calendar year in 19 matches.
A depleted Sri Lanka, on the other hand, looked meek in the absence of some of the key players who pulled out of the tour due to security concerns as the team was bowled out for 238 in 46.5 overs.
Shehan Jayasuriya (96) missed out on a maiden ODI hundred and Dasun Shanaka made a career-best 68 before both fell in successive overs after sharing a century partnership.
Left-arm fast bowler Usman Shinwari rattled Sri Lanka’s inexperienced top order and reduced the visitors to 28-5 before Jayasuriya and Shanaka shared a 177-run sixth-wicket stand.
Shinwari returned and broke the partnership by having Jayasuriya caught behind and finished with 5-51. Shanaka was brilliantly snapped at midwicket by the diving Fakhar Zaman off leg-spinner Shadab Khan (2-76) in the next over.
A power failure at the National Stadium disrupted play for 26 minutes during Sri Lanka’s run-chase when one of the six floodlight towers malfunctioned twice.
It was not a packed house at the 32,000-capacity National Stadium, where Sri Lanka was the last team to play an ODI in 2009.
But still around 12,000 cricket enthusiasts braved the strict security checkpoints under hot and humid conditions and were enthralled by Babar’s imperious 11th ODI hundred that featured eight fours and four sixes.
Pakistan, which won the toss and opted to bat, got off to a good start with Fakhar (54) and Imam-ul-Haq (31) adding 73 runs for the opening stand.
Leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga (2-63) got two wickets by removing both openers before Babar took charge. He shared a 111-run stand with Haris Sohail (40) before holing out at wide long on in the 46th over as Pakistan looked for quick runs in the final overs.
While Sri Lanka lost the game, the team still won the hearts of many Pakistanis.
“I have come here to support Sri Lanka because it is due to them that international cricket has come here,” said fan Quratul Ain. “My message to other countries is that they should also come here and play because we are a peaceful country and we love the game of cricket.”
Unseasonal rain in the southern port city washed out the first ODI on Friday and forced the Pakistan Cricket Board to reschedule the second ODI for Monday instead of Sunday. The third and final match will be played at the same venue on Wednesday.
The ODI series will be followed by three Twenty20s at Lahore from October 5-9.
It is the first time since Sri Lanka’s team bus was attacked in Lahore in 2009 that a foreign team is conducting a two-week tour of Pakistan.
This is the first time since the 2009 Lahore incident that a foreign team is conducting a two-week tour of Pakistan after major teams avoided the country that killed eight people and injured several players.
The present tour went ahead after Pakistan government assured Sri Lanka team high level security normally reserved for heads of state.
(With inputs from agencies)