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Sri Lankan Cricket Team In Pakistan, Eight Years After Attack


Pakistani soldiers patrol outside the cricket stadium ahead of the match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on October 25.
Pakistani soldiers patrol outside the cricket stadium ahead of the match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on October 25.

Pakistan's cricket squad has swept the Sri Lankan team 3-0 in the final of a three-match Twenty20 series played amid heavy security in Lahore, eight years after Sri Lanka's players and team officials were attacked by terrorists in the Pakistani city.

The Gaddafi Stadium was filled to its 25,000 capacity for the October 29 match, with fans carrying placards reading, "Welcome back Sri Lankan Lions."

Authorities said several thousand security officials would be on duty for the match, with military personnel guarding the stadium and the streets leading to the hotel of the Sri Lankan players and team officials.

Fans entering the stadium went through various checkpoints and body searches.

Sri Lanka's cricket squad was on its first visit to the country since its bus was attacked by gunmen near the same stadium in 2009. Six police officers and two civilians were killed and seven players and staff were injured in that attack.

Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Najam Sethi dubbed the match "historic," saying it marked "the beginning of a new era of international cricket in Pakistan."

"This sends a big signal to the rest of the cricketing nations that Pakistan is ready to host international cricket," he added.

"We are happy and privileged to be here to support Pakistan cricket," Sri Lanka Cricket President Thilanag Sumathipala said. "It's a wonderful cricketing nation. Pakistan has done so much for world cricket and to sports in general so we cannot leave them in isolation."

The event follows a match in September, also conducted under heavy security, at the same stadium between the Pakistani team and the World XI squad featuring members from several cricket-playing nations.

The matches are part of Pakistan’s effort to showcase its capabilities and return to world-class cricket competition after the devastating 2009 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.

Sri Lanka is the first major squad to visit the country since the incident, although several players and officials -- including survivors of the 2009 attack -- declined to attend because of security concerns.

The Pakistan Cricket Board has said it hopes a safe tour by Sri Lanka will help persuade the West Indies squad to visit for a three-match series next month.

With reporting by AFP and AP
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