The Sri Lanka cricket team arrived in Lahore to play the third and final Twenty20 International in the wee hours of Sunday (October 29) amid tight security, their visit likely to give a big fillip to Pakistan’s efforts of reintroducing international cricket in their country.
This is the first tour by Sri Lanka since their team was attacked in Lahore on March 3, 2009, the event that led to foreign teams staying away from Pakistan and forcing the team to play their home matches in the United Arab Emirates.
Since then Pakistan have only hosted Zimbabwe for five limited-overs matches and, more recently, the final of the Pakistan Super League in March this year and three T20 matches with a World XI team last month, all in Lahore.
Just before the Sri Lankans touched down, the Pakistan team also reached Lahore via Dubai and both the teams were taken in bombproof busses to their hotel under a heavy security cover.
The trip was in doubt after several Sri Lankan team members – including Upul Tharanga, the captain, and Nic Pothas, the coach – raising security fears. Lasith Malinga, Akila Dananjaya, Suranga Lakmal, Chamara Kapugedara, Dushmantha Chameera and Niroshan Dickwella also refused to travel, and Sri Lanka left out all the players from the whole series and handed the captaincy reins to Thisara Perera.
“It’s nice to be back in Pakistan,” said Perera, who also travelled to Lahore with the World XI team, at the airport. “We are thankful to the people of Pakistan for a warm welcome and we will do our best to give a good performance.”
Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain, thanked the Sri Lankan team for having faith in the security apparatus in Lahore. “We remain thankful to the Sri Lankan team for coming to Pakistan and I hope our people will support both the teams in the match,” he said.
The match on Sunday starts at 6pm Pakistan time and the Sri Lankan team will fly back home soon after the match.