CAPE TOWN - Hashim Amla is one of the few current international cricketers left that can fondly recall playing in Pakistan.
No major nation has toured Pakistan since 2009 after a bus carrying the Sri Lankan team was fired upon by 12 gun men near the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Only Zimbabwe has visited since when the African nation played two T20I’s and three ODI’s in Lahore in 2015. Bizarrely the third ODI could not be completed due to a floodlight failure, dust storm and eventual rain.
But Amla, along with fellow Proteas Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Morne Morkel and Pakistani-born Imran Tahir, is part of a World XI that will play a historic three-match T20 series against Pakistan in Lahore this week.
The former Test captain was part of a victorious Proteas side that famously claimed a 1-0 Test series victory on Pakistan soil in 2007. The two-match series will always be remembered for Jacques Kallis’s stellar form with the bat as the all-rounder smashed 421 runs at an average of 210.55. The Proteas also went on to win the five-match ODI series 3-2 to complete “the double”.
“I have good memories of playing Test cricket there and we managed to win that Test series when not many teams could do it. The crowd made the atmosphere great,” said Amla, who struck 71 in the first innings of the first Test in Karachi.
Amla has since played Pakistan regularly at their neutral venue home base in the United Arab Emirates. Even in the UAE though, Pakistan still receive fanatical support from the expatriate community based in Dubai, Sharjah and the Abu Dhabi while matches anywhere in the world against the Asian nation creates a great sense of fervour in the stands.
“Pakistani supporters are fantastic wherever we have been in the world and they have been outstanding whenever we played them. Even when playing them in neutral venues the fans made it look like it is their home game. We are all really excited to get to Pakistan and be part of something special - of introducing international cricket slowly and safely back in Pakistan,” Amla said.
It all set up for an exciting challenge between a team led by Proteas captain Du Plessis that will include fellow internationals Samuel Badree and Darren Sammy from West Indies (both double World T20 winners), and George Bailey, Ben Cutting and Tim Paine from Australia
Fellow former World T20 winners like England’s Paul Collingwood and Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera have also been included along with New Zealand’s Grant Elliot and Bangladesh’s Tamim Iqbal. The team will be coached by former Zimbabwe star Andy Flower.
Although Pakistan are likely to be without their ICC Champions Trophy final hero Mohammed Amir, whose wife will soon give birth to their first child, the hosts are still set to field a formidable XI. Amir is one of many Pakistani cricketers who have yet to play any international cricket on home soil, with the left-armer having made his debut at the World T20 in England just a few months after the 2009 terror attacks.
“We have a very good team. I have played with our captain Faf du Plessis and three other South African players (David Miller, Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel). We have got quality in other international players. So we have a really good team but Pakistan are a quality team too. So hopefully it will be closely contested series,” Amla said.
“They being the Champions Trophy winners they have always been a commendable team in T20. It is going to be really exciting and I think everybody will enjoy the competition and the atmosphere. Since we played against Pakistan in the Champions Trophy we have played against everyone in their team.”
Significantly there are no Indian players in the World XI for the three-match T20 series, which has international status. It begins on September 12, with the next two matches to be played on September 13 and 15. All three games will be held in Lahore.
Squads for the Independence Cup
World XI: Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Samuel Badree, George Bailey, Paul Collingwood, Ben Cutting, Grant Elliott, Tamim Iqbal, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Tim Paine, Thisara Perera, Imran Tahir, Darren Sammy.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Umar Amin, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Aamer Yamin, Mohammad Amir, Ruman Raees, Usman Khan, Sohail Khan.
Umpires: Aleem Dar, Ahsan Raza and Shozab Raza
Match Referee: Richie Richardson