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Pakistan Hosts Big-Time Cricket For First Time Since 2009 Terror Attack

Fans in Karachi watch on a giant-screen TV a match played by a national team in London in June.
Fans in Karachi watch on a giant-screen TV a match played by a national team in London in June.

Amid extremely high security, Pakistan is set to reenter the world of international cricket, hosting world-class competition for the first time since a deadly terror attack in 2009 scared off the sport's top teams.

The World XI team arrived in Lahore a few hours before daybreak on September 11 -- complete with air cover and hundreds of police officers providing protection before the players were quickly escorted to their hotel.

Some 9,000 police and paramilitary personnel will cordon off the hotel and protect the stadium for the three Twenty20 matches, the first of which will take place on September 12 in Lahore.

It will be the first high-level cricket played in the country since terrorists struck the Sri Lankan team bus March 2009, killing eight people -- six police officers and two civilians -- and injuring seven players and staff.

Since then, Pakistan has been forced to play most of its "home" matches in the United Arab Emirates.

The Pakistan Cricket Board estimates the action has cost it some $120 million.

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

The World XI team features 14 players from seven top cricket-playing nations, led by South Africa's Faf du Plessis and coached by former Zimbabwe batsman and ex-England coach Andy Flower.

The players from England, Australia, West Indies, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand agreed to come to the country for the matches in an effort to give a boost to cricket in Pakistan.

"It's great to be here," Flower said. "We are looking forward to seeing a lot of you watching the great cricket that we are going to put on show and we had a warm welcome already."

"Everybody involved in the series will realize there are bigger issues at stake than winning at cricket," he added.

Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed said that "I can assure all Pakistan cricket fans that we have missed playing in front of them.

"But I am confident that through this tour, more cricket will come our way, and we will do our best to win for home fans."

The BBC reported that Sri Lanka will also play a match in Lahore on October 29.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Hindustan Times, and The Nation
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