LAHORE: Pakistan defeated Zimbabwe by 5 wickets in the first Twenty20 international at a packed Gaddafi Stadium here on Friday, celebrating international cricket´s return in the country after a lapse of six years.
Pakistan chased down the 173-run target with 3 balls to spare in 19.3 overs and take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.
Pakistan had not hosted any international cricket since terrorists attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009.
Strict security was in place Friday with 4,000 policemen on duty but that did not stop cricket-deprived fans from packing the 27,000 capacity stadium.
After winning the toss, Zimbabwe batted first scoring 172 runs for the loss of six wickets. Captain Elton Chigumbura remained the top scorer with 54 runs.
Making his international comeback, pacer Mohammad Sami took 3 wickets. Wahab Riaz took 2 and Shoaib Malik 1 wicket.
In reply, Pakistani openers Ahmed Shehzad and Mukhtar Ahmed cashed in on the batting friendly pitch scoring over 100 runs for the opening partnership.
Mukhtar, who was also named ‘the man of the match’, scored a brilliant 45-ball 83 with 12 fours and 3 sixes. Shehzad made a solid 55.
Speaking to TV presenter and former cricketing great Ramiz Raja at the awards ceremony, Mukhtar said he was ready to adopt any role team management wanted to set for him.
He also expressed his joy over return of international cricket in the country and for being awarded the man of the match award in today’s match.
Skipper Shahid Afridi hit the winning runs after his side stuttered for a while after losing the well-set openers.
“Crowd has given the image that we are a nation which loves cricket. Zimbabwe played well but today it was all about Mukhtar… we expect the same from him in the future,” said the captain at the awards ceremony.
The second Twenty20 will be played on Sunday followed by three one-day internationals on May 26, 29 and 31 – all in Lahore.