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Pakistan down World XI by 33 runs

Pakistan defeated the visiting World XI by 33 runs in a gripping contest for the Independence Cup at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Friday.

World XI skipper Faf du Plessis won the toss today and put Pakistan in to bat first, as was the case in the first two matches of the series.

The green shirts in their innings set a target of 184 runs for the visiting side in the Twenty20 international (T20I) series finale, but the World XI managed to pile on only 150 runs with eight wickets.

The game appeared to be on knife’s edge until the last few overs, when Pakistan regained control of the innings, taking crucial wickets as the international side began giving the green shirts the run-around with a series of hard knocks.

Pakistan was labouring under the aggressive batting of heavy-hitter Thisara Perera ─ who smashed a 4 and three 6s off young Shadab Khan ─ when he was caught by Babar Azam off a delivery from Rumman Raees.

First Babar went on to catch David Miller at deep mid-wicket as he attempted to smack Hassan Ali out of the park. Then he ran out Morne Morkel, and a sense of urgency returned to the World XI batting side.

Pakistan’s total of 183 for the loss of four wickets was powered by Player of the Match Ahmed Shehzad’s “blistering” run count of 89. The side’s highest-run scorer became the first Pakistani to smash three back-to-back 6s in T20 cricket.

Right-handed Babar Azam, Pakistan’s top-order batsman, was awarded Man of the Series for his performance in the Independence Cup. Babar led the run-scoring chart, aggregating 179, including a match-winning 86 in the series opener.

Although Pakistani openers Fakhar Zaman and Shehzad slowly piled on the pressure early in the first innings with their 61-run partnership, Fakhar’s wicket brought the heat back onto the green shirts.

From then on, Shehzad, Babar Azam and Imad Wasim struggled to keep the total moving, and the latter two both got out in the last over trying to take Pakistan over the line.

“I am over the moon,” said Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Najam Sethi, who was asked to say a few words. “Pakistanis, congratulations, congratulations, congratulations!”

The successful completion of the tournament is another milestone in the revival of international cricket in Pakistan, which has suffered a dearth of opportunities on home ground since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, save a limited-over series against Zimbabwe in 2015.

Du Plessis hailed the series as a big step and success.

“We wanted to come here and play a small part in cricket coming back to Pakistan. Thanks everyone for the opportunity for coming here. We were joking about it, the blokes were saying we should do this every year. For a lot of guys who don’t play a lot of international cricket these days, this was terrific competition against a strong Pakistan side,” he said.

Pakistan hopes the successful staging of this series will help them host Sri Lanka for a T20I on October 29, at the end of their full series in the United Arab Emirates. A month later they are also likely to host the West Indies for three Twenty20 matches.

Pakistan: Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c)(wk), Muhammad Nawaz, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hassan Ali, Usman Shinwari and Rumman Raees.

World XI: Tamim Iqbal, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (c), David Miller, Darren Sammy, Thisara Perera, George Bailey (wk), Ben Cutting, Samuel Badree, Morne Morkel and Imran Tahir.