Pakistan and Australia head into a winner-take-all third and final Test from tomorrow 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, 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.”
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore (capacity 27,000)
WHEN? March 21-25
Umpires: Ahsan Raza (Pakistan), Aleem Dar (Pakistan) Third umpire: Rashid Riaz (Pakistan) Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka)
World ranking: 6
Coach: Saqlain Mushtaq
Captain: Babar Azam
Squad: Babar Azam, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Zahid Mahmood.
World ranking: 1
Coach: Andrew McDonald
Captain: Pat Cummins
Team: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steven Smith, Travis Head, Cameron Green, Alex Carey, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Swepson, Nathan Lyon
PREVIOUS TEST MEETINGS IN LAHORE
1959 Australia won by nine wickets
1980 match drawn
1982 Pakistan won by nine wickets
1988 match drawn
1994 match drawn
First Test (Rawalpindi): match drawn
Second Test (Karachi): match drawn