Fans skipped classes and work on Wednesday to attend the country’s first cricket test match in a decade, which was ringed with security and guarded by snipers following the deadly 2009 attack that scared away foreign teams.
Despite the tight security, excitement was palpable as the cricket-mad country finally got to host a test match, 10 years after the militant assault on a convoy carrying the Sri Lankan team to a game in Lahore.
“This is a dream come true,” said Hamza Shakoor, a 21-year-old university student. “We are all so excited. We just prayed for (this) time.”
The Sri Lanka and Pakistan teams arrived at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium in armed convoys an hour before the coin toss, with roads to the venue sealed off — adding further chaos to Rawalpindi’s perennially gridlocked traffic.
Sri Lankans are set to play two test matches, the pinnacle of cricket, during the current series, including a next week’s match in Karachi.
The pressure is likely to be on the home team following a humiliating loss 2-0 Test series defeat in Australia.
But win or lose, Pakistani fans are hoping the return of Test cricket paves the wave for more home internationals in the future.
“I have a message for international cricketers,” said Khan. “Come and play here.”