Sri Lanka cricket team arrives in Lahore amid tight security
By RIZWAN ALI
Oct. 29, 2017
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Sri Lanka's cricketers arrived in Lahore under tight security Sunday for their first visit to Pakistan since the visiting team was ambushed by gunmen in a deadly attack in 2009.
Hundreds of armed military and security officials lined the city streets as the team made its way from the airport to their hotel in a bullet-proof bus ahead of Sunday's Twenty20 international at the Gaddafi Stadium.
The match will be the first between the two teams 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.
Pakistan have been playing their "home" matches in the United Arab Emirates since then but have pushing for a return to their homeland, insisting it is now safe for visiting teams.
Since 2009, the only international team to agree play in Pakistan is Zimbabwe, who played five games in 2015, although a World XI team played three games in Pakistan earlier this year.
"It's nice to be in Pakistan again," said Sri Lanka captain Thisara Perera. "We are thankful for a warm welcome and will do our best to entertain the crowd with some good cricket."
Sunday's match will be the third and final game of a Twenty20 series which Pakistan has already won, following back-to-back wins in Abu Dhabi.
Several top Sri Lankan players, including regular captain Upul Tharanga, Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya, opted not to make the trip despite assurances the players would be heavily protected.
In addition to lining the route to the stadium with armed military personnel and using air and camera surveillance, thousands of security officials will be deployed inside the ground while spectators will have to pass through heavily guarded checkpoints before entering the venue.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed urged fans attending the match to cheer on both teams, showing their appreciation to Sri Lanka for agreeing to return to Lahore.
"We are thankful to the Sri Lankan team for coming to Pakistan and I request the fans to support both the teams during the match," he said.
The Pakistan Cricket Board is hoping Sunday's match will be a small step towards having regular matches played in Pakistan with the country already planning to host West Indies in a three-match series next month.