Footprints: FAN SERVICE

THE buzz is palpable on a breezy September evening as England and Pakistan line up for their national anthems in front of a sold out National Stadium.

It is a celebration; after all, England — the 50-over world champions and currently one of the best international white-ball sides in the world — are playing their first match on Pakistani soil in 17 years.

The crowd is in high spirits. Even though England have shunned travelling to Pakistan due to security concerns since 2005, this seven-match T20 tour — ahead of next month’s World Cup in the same format — precedes a Test tour in the winter.

A lot of cricket is on offer between the two sides, but it was the breakthrough game on Tuesday that mattered most for fans; their passion for the game dragging them to the venue through several security checks.

This time, though, they felt they hadn’t been put through too much in the process of reaching the stadium — something they have been facing as international cricket has gradually returned to the country in the last three years.

“The experience has been good and we did not face many problems,” Anas, 27, told Dawn. “We did have to walk from Expo Centre [some 1.7km away] but we are so excited that we didn’t really care about it.”

Anas was looking forward to seeing his favourite English players David Willey and Sam Curran play, but only wanted Pakistan to win. He had been waiting for the series since the dates were announced last month.“The moment the series was announced we decided to book the tickets for the first match,” he said.

“We specially came for this series from Namibia, we have been living there for the last 25 years,” said Mansoor, 60. “This was a golden opportunity and I’m coming to the stadium after 30 years.”

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