Pakistan win as int’l cricket comes home
The occasion of international cricket’s return to Pakistan was made merrier by the opening pair of Mukhtar Ahmed and Ahmed Shehzad as they tore into and broke down Zimbabwe’s challenging 172 for 6, to ensure the side, playing at home after six years, won by five wickets.
Their 142-run stand equalled the opening partnership between Salman Butt and Kamran Akmal against Bangladesh in the 2010 World <g data-gr-id="27">T20</g> but the one at the Gaddafi Stadium will be counted as more special. The March 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus, outside this very cricket stadium, had taken international cricket away from them.
The full house was fully entertained by the newcomer Mukhtar, who made 83 off 45 balls. His dozen boundaries were hit off a bowling attack which lacked a leader and a strong <g data-gr-id="35">attacker</g> but Mukhtar did what he had to do. He was severe on everything straight and on his legs, nine of his 12 fours coming through fine-leg, midwicket and long-on. He reached 50 off 34 balls and left <g data-gr-id="31">the more</g> recognised Shehzad far behind.
Shehzad didn’t miss out though, getting to his fifty in the 12th over. He struck some brutal hits down the ground but was generous enough to let Mukhtar do all the hitting. The pair fell in consecutive overs - Shehzad gave a catch to <g data-gr-id="40"><g data-gr-id="39">point</g>,</g> while Mukhtar hit straight to long-on - but the crowd was fully entertained for one hour by the pair. After the Mukhtar-Shehzad partnership, Pakistan lost three more wickets before captain Shahid Afridi struck a straight boundary to complete the win with three
balls to spare.
The start of the evening, too, will remain memorable. The crowd started to enter the stadium more than two hours before the first ball and it was a full house when Shahid Afridi and Elton Chigumbura strode out to the toss, held seven minutes earlier as the Pakistan president Mamnoon Hussain met with both squads. Afridi gave one last pep talk before the hosts raced to the turf.
The first ball was a fuller length delivery from Anwar Ali that crashed into Hamilton Masakadza’s pad. The pace bowler didn’t appeal, but an appeal wouldn’t have been out of place given the drama of the occasion. Masakadza then got to work with a string of <g data-gr-id="25">boundaries</g> but he failed to keep the crowd’s noise down.