International cricket has been a rarity in Pakistan ever since a team bus of the visiting Sri Lankan team in 2009 was attacked by gunmen outside the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Most top teams have since been reluctant to visit the terror-stricken nation.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) managed to host Zimbabwe in a three-match ODI series in 2015, which was also marred by incidents of terror. The PCB though was desperate to bring top-quality action back to the country, and was partially successful in doing so when Lahore hosted the final of Pakistan Super League 2017 in March.
The PSL final, which had top stars including Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels and David Malan, was used to convince the International Cricket Council that Pakistan can safely host high-profile matches.
Cut to September, and it is safe to say Pakistan has well and truly managed to bring international cricket back to the country.
An ICC team led by South Africa captain Faf du Plessis will take on the Sarfraz Ahmed-led hosts in the first of a three-match Twenty20 series — which has been accorded international status — in Lahore on Tuesday, September 12.
Start time: The first T20I will start at 7 pm local time, 2 pm GMT, 7:30 pm IST
The hype around the match is such that tickets for the historic game have been selling like hot cakes.
PCB has impressed Du Plessis and Co with its tight security arrangements, which includes six-layer security at both the team hotel and the stadium.
How to watch live: Global TV coverage and live streaming links
Global live streaming: cricketgateway.com
India: TV: DSport. Live streaming: Watch DSport
Pakistan: TV: Ten Sports, PTV Sport. Live streaming: PTV Sports Official
UK: TV: Prime TV. Live streaming: Watch Prime TV
Middle East: Live streaming: Yupp TV
Bangladesh: TV: Gazi TV
USA: TV: Willow TV
Sri Lanka: TV: Dialog
Africa: TV: SuperSport
As focus shifts back to cricket, Sarfraz's men would want to put up a good show in front of the home crowd. The Men in Green, who stunned India in the final of Champions Trophy 2017, have always been a dangerous T20 unit.
Pakistan have won seven of their last eight T20I games, including series wins against England and the West Indies. It will be interesting to see how the hosts go about their business against the World XI side, which is filled with superstars.
Pakistan will look for inspiration from senior campaigners Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz and Ahmed Shehzad. Youngsters Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam will also be looking to make an impact at home.
Pakistan, however, will miss premier pacer Mohammad Amir, who will have to wait to play international matches in front of his home crowd. The focus will be on teenage leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who is among the most-feared wrist-spinners in T20 cricket.
On the other hand, the World XI side will look to get its combination right as Du Plessis will have to choose his playing XI from a list of superstar cricketers.
The Gaddafi Stadium has seen a lot of high scoring games. However, the aforementioned PSL final was a low-scoring affair.
With the home crowd looking for some entertainement, the curators would have been tempted to provide batsman-friendly wickets.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (c and wk), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Umar Amin, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf , Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin, Mohammad Amir, Rumman Raees, Usman Khan, Sohail Khan.
World XI: Faf du Plessis (c), David Miller, Morne Morkel, Tim Paine (wk), Thisara Perera, Imran Tahir, Darren Sammy, Hashim Amla, Grant Elliott, Samuel Badree, George Bailey, Tamim Iqbal, Paul Collingwood, Ben Cutting.