KARACHI: On this day last year, cricket finally came home.
May 24, 2015, will always be etched in the memories of Pakistan cricket fans as the day, after six years of cricketing drought, the game brought glory for players on their home soil.
On the day, Pakistan enjoyed a series win against Zimbabwe, who became the first international team to tour the country following the horrific attack on the touring Sri Lanka players’ bus in 2009.
A cricket encounter between Pakistan and Zimbabwe might not be a celebrated affair in the rest of the world, but the series in 2015 was special for Pakistanis, as it allowed the cricket-crazy nation to once again fill the in the empty stands of Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium.
Living in a university dorm in Lahore, I witnessed the hype surrounding the upcoming series, which was more apparent than the imminent end of semester.
The slogan ‘Cricket Comes Home’ was ubiquitous on social media and the demand of tickets was such that the university decided to set up a booth inside campus for ticket sales.
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PHOTO COURTESY: Hadeel Obaid
And thankfully it was one of those events that lived up to our expectations.
Despite not being a cricket enthusiast, I was excited to join my friends for the first T20I on May 22 in what would be the last outing for us as a group before graduation.
On the day of the match, we travelled to the stadium in a rickshaw and then the Metro bus. It was expected that a huge crowd would be present both inside and outside the stadium but we were surprised to see the bus overcrowded to the point that getting out of it was a task on its own.
The only trouble I faced was when security personnel refused to allow me to take my water bottle inside the stadium, which was necessary in the excruciatingly hot month of May. Still, one shouldn’t let such a minor thing ruin their day.
The atmosphere began to charge as beginning of the match approached. What was unforgettable was so see the crowd cheer on Zimbabwe for ending Pakistan’s six-year absence from international cricket at home.
Also surprising was Mohammad Sami’s inclusion, as a friend remarked, “‘Mohammad Sami still plays cricket?”
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To the opposing team’s credit, they played really well in the first innings. Zimbabwe posted a score of 172 in 20 overs, and we dreaded to think of how embarrassing it would be if Pakistan lost.
However, the jubilant Lahori crowd was still optimistic and hopeful of the Men in Green.
One person sitting next to me said: ‘Koi nahi unko khush karnay kay liye runs bananay diye’ (No worries, our boys let them score runs to make them happy)
And maybe he was right.
Fans show their support. PHOTO: AFP
The next innings saw one of the best opening partnerships Pakistan has seen in recent years, with newcomer Mukhtar Ahmed and opener Ahmed Shehzad putting up 142 runs for the first wicket.
However, as successive wickets began to fall, the crowd looked for their saviour in none other than Shahid Afridi. In fact, my friend was wishing for the fifth wicket to fall so that we could all witness Lala at the crease.
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With four runs required from the last four balls, Afridi smashed a low full toss over the bowler’s head for a boundary, ending the drama with a bang. The crowd cheered, rejoiced and took ‘selfies’ in order to immortalise this priceless moment.
Pakistan went on to win the second T20I and the series 2-0 to add the cherry on top of the cake. The first step was considerably small but it is always the first step that is difficult and one we will never forget.
Courtesy : Express Tribune