Cricket-Pakistan, Australia vie for series win as test returns to Lahore

A Pakistani soldier stands guard outside the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium ahead of a Twenty20 international cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Lahore
FILE PHOTO: A Pakistani soldier stands guard outside the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium ahead of a Twenty20 international cricket match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Lahore, Pakistan October 28, 2017. REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

March 20, 2022

By Sudipto Ganguly

(Reuters) – Pakistan and Australia head into a winner-take-all third and final test from Monday as test cricket returns to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium for the first time since the 2009 attack by gunmen on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team.

Top teams have largely shunned Pakistan since the attack that killed six policemen and two civilians with Australia visiting the country for the first time in 24 years.

The test will also be a first for Pakistan captain Babar Azam in his home city.

“It’s a different feeling to play in front of a home crowd, at my home ground. I can’t explain this feeling,” Babar told reporters on Sunday, adding that it will be a proud moment for the country and his team if they can win the series.

While Australia named an unchanged side from the one that failed to clinch a win in Karachi, Pakistan will take a call after taking a final look at the wicket.

Babar’s epic 196 and Mohammad Rizwan’s gallant century helped the hosts snatch draw from the jaws of defeat in the second test in Karachi after the opening match also ended in a stalemate in Rawalpindi.

“We took a lot of confidence from the way the team played the last test,” Babar said.

“We will take that confidence into the final test and we will be playing to win, that will be our mindset.”

With batters dominating the series so far, the Pakistan Cricket Board hired Toby Lumsden, the former curator of the International Cricket Council academy, to oversee the preparations of the pitch for Lahore.

Both Babar and his Australian counterpart Pat Cummins said they did not expect the Gaddafi Stadium pitch to be much different from the first two tests.

“There’s not a lot of grass on it,” Cummins said. “I think it’s had quite a lot of traffic throughout the PSL (Pakistan Super League) on it as well.

“It seems hard, but I can’t see it being too much different from the other ones.”

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)