Karachi is all set to host its first international match in nine years after foreign experts inspected security arrangements in the city and gave the go-ahead to stage the final of Pakistan's Twenty20 league next month. The third season of the Pakistan Super League starts in the United Arab Emirates on February 22. The tournament will move to Pakistan for two playoffs on March 20-21 and the final in Karachi on March 25.
Security experts Reg Dickason and Richard Dennis witnessed a full dress rehearsal for the big final in Karachi. The experts were also briefed by Pakistan security and government officials on the arrangements. All six PSL franchises have foreign players in their squads for the third season. Each team can field a maximum of four foreign players per match.
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"Whatever we have witnessed today, it's as good as I have seen in all my years of work but I can't say a final word (on hosting the final) now and will submit my report within the next seven days," Dickason was quoted by AFP.
The team's report will be integral to paving the way for the PSL final. International cricket in Pakistan was suspended after a 2009 militant attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore killed eight people and injured seven visiting players. Pakistan's national team has since played nearly all its home matches in the UAE.
Over the years, Pakistan had been battling various issues ranging from handling Islamist militants or insurgents who have carried out several high-profile attacks across the country. Authorities have been trying to gradually return international cricket to Pakistan.
Last year, Lahore hosted the much-hyped final of the PSL. Some foreign players made the trip, but many stayed away because of concerns about security. That was followed by three T20s against a World XI in September, and one T20 against Sri Lanka in October - all in Lahore.
For all the matches, Pakistan government made unprecedented security arrangements, with 20,000 military and police officials guarding the visiting players and the stadium. Karachi, the country's largest city, last hosted an international match in February 2009 - a Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka - a week before the Lahore attack.
(With Agency Inputs)