LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Thousands of joyous cricket-starved Pakistan fans turned up at the Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday to welcome back the Sri Lanka team on its first visit to the country since it was ambushed by gunmen in a deadly attack in 2009.

The stadium was filled to its 25,000 capacity with fans carrying placards reading "Welcome back Sri Lankan Lions" amid stringent security measures put in place for the third and final Twenty20 international between the teams.

The match is the first between them on Pakistan soil since gunmen opened fire on the visiting Sri Lankan team bus near the stadium eight years ago, killing six policemen and two civilians and injuring six players.

Spectators, who were driven to the stadium in buses, were searched with metal detectors as they passed through five security checkpoints.

In addition to lining the team's route from the hotel to the stadium with armed military personnel and with air and camera surveillance in place, thousands of security officials have also been deployed around the stadium.

"I am not bothered about all this (security), what matters to me is that I will be watching an international match," said 18-year-old student Idrees Abbas, who was carrying a Pakistan national flag.

Since 2009, the only international team to agree to play in Pakistan has been Zimbabwe, which played five games there in 2015, although a World XI team also played three games in Pakistan last month.

Pakistan has been playing its "home" matches in the United Arab Emirates since 2009 but has been lobbying for a return home, insisting it is now safe for visiting teams.

"Eight or nine years ago there was a tragedy which we wish to forget and this is a beginning of that journey of moving on," Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Najam Sethi said.

"This is historic because it marks the beginning of a new era of international cricket at home. This sends a big signal to the rest of the cricketing nations that Pakistan is ready to host international cricket."

Sethi said he aims to bring back full slate of international cricket by 2020 and the country's cricket board will soon be finalizing dates for a three-match T20 series against the West Indies next month.

The PCB earlier this year hosted its premier domestic Twenty20 final in Lahore as a first small step toward building trust of foreign teams through several foreign players who competed in the competition.

It then hosted the World XI, led by South Africa's Faf du Plessis, last month before succeeded in convincing Sri Lanka to participate in Sunday's Twenty20.

"You deserve to enjoy good cricket played in your country," said Sri Lanka Cricket President Thilanga Sumpathipala, who last came to Pakistan to watch his country beat Australia in the World Cup final at the same Gaddafi Stadium in 1996.

Sumpathipala said SLC saw the PCB as a key ally in the cricket world, especially in the Asian region.

"If Pakistan is weak in cricket, the whole Asia is going to be weaker and that makes world cricket weaker and weak. Your strength is our strength and it's our responsibility to look after each, there's no doubt about it.

"Pakistan has done so much for world cricket and to sports in general, we don't believe in isolation for anybody for that matter, we believe everyone should be inclusive in the process."

Former test cricketers, including Waqar Younis, also lauded Sri Lanka for coming to play in Lahore, something that may help revive international cricket in Pakistan.

"The arrival of Sri Lanka team is very good, especially in the backdrop of how much they had suffered eight years ago," Younis said.