Home-staged PSL final brings Pakistan fans hope

Peshawar Zalmi defeated Quetta Gladiators by 58 runs to win the historic Pakistan Super League final played at the iconic Gadaffi Stadium.

Peshawar Zalmi celebrates after dismissing Quetta Gladiators batsman Ahmed Shehzad for one run.   -  AFP

Pakistan staged its biggest cricket match in almost a decade Sunday, as a packed stadium in Lahore watched the final of Pakistan Super League organisers hoped would restore faith in the country's ability to safely host foreign teams.

The scoreboard showed a one-sided win for domestic side Peshawar Zalmi over rival Quetta Gladiators -- though for many the result was less significant than the fact the match took place in the militancy-wracked nation at all.

Thousands of police and troops patrolled the area around the Gaddafi Stadium and military helicopters whirred overhead in heavy security more commonly associated with visiting heads-of-state.

It was just outside this ground almost exactly eight years ago that Pakistan cricket suffered its worst blow when Islamist militants opened fire on a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers, killing eight people and wounding nine, including six visiting players.

The attack effectively snuffed out international sporting fixtures at home, with no major teams visiting Pakistan since. Zimbabwe had toured Pakistan in 2015.

Holding the final in Pakistan had drawn criticism from some quarters, after a series of militant attacks in February left 130 people dead and broke a long lull in violence that had encouraged authorities.

Fears of a fresh incident threatened to overshadow Sunday's final, as major draws like Quetta's Kevin Pieterson and Luke Wright pulled out ahead of the clash.

But West Indies star Darren Sammy, skipper of Peshawar Zalmi and the most high-profile foreign star to play in the final, credited his appearance on team mate Shahid Afridi.

"My good friend Lala said: 'If we get to the final you should come to Lahore for the final'," he told a presenter before the match began, using a nickname for the flamboyant former Pakistan allrounder.

Fans at the stadium enthused about the match, described as "a momentous occasion for Pakistan" by legendary paceman Wasim Akram.

"I felt no fear and I just came to give a message to terrorists that Pakistanis are not afraid of their cowardly acts" said Mohammad Nauman, who paid $40 for his ticket.

Peshawar Zalmi rode on a 32-ball 40 by in-form Kamran Akmal who clobbered six fours and a six to reach 148-6 in its 20 overs.

Skipper Sammy meanwhile hit two sixes in his 28 not out, while fellow West Indian paceman Rayad Emrit took 3-31 for Quetta.

In its reply, Quetta were shot out for 90 after being rocked by left-arm spinner Mohammad Asghar who finished with 3-16 in his four overs.

Quetta finished runners up for a second time after losing last year's final to Islamabad United.

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