Karachi had longed for this. Perhaps, it is because of the sense of deprivation amongst the residents of this city. One of the most common arguments used by the Karachiites against Lahore, in the Lahore-Karachi debate, is how the center - based on the 'Punjabi establishment' - has neglected the port-city.
When Lahore was being consistently used by the PCB as a venue for all the high-profile cricket before the final of the third edition of the PSL at the National Stadium Karachi (NSK), this argument came in handy for them to vent out their ire.
So, when the apex cricket returned to their city, the Karachiites wanted to make the most of the moment.
"It feels great to have [international] cricket back in our hometown," said Amna, an A-levels student, who had come to the NSK for the first time. "It had been nine years and there was no cricket here at all. So, we feel very blessed to witness the match here today."
Unlike the PSL final at the same venue a week ago, they waited for the sun to disappear before they thronged the stadium. The enthusiasm for this particular series was somewhat less in comparison to the PSL final. But, when the Karachiites perched the enclosures, they made sure their presence was felt.
Under a heavy security blanket, the teams arrived at the National Stadium Karachi, two hours before the first ball was scheduled to be bowled. Some minutes later, they were out on the ground for the warm-up. The stadium was somewhat at the half of its capacity, but a loud roar - to welcome West Indies' arrival - said otherwise.
"This is the second time that the West Indians have come here to play cricket. We should appreciate the players that are here," an elated Amna said. "The return of international cricket is going to be a gradual process. It is okay [that West Indies' big names refused to come here]. We are going to enjoy the match and are hoping that Pakistan wins 3-0."
But, another spectator, Furqan Rafiq, who introduced himself as an ardent follower of the Pakistan cricket team, expected a tough battle for his side. "I think West Indies have that thing [to give a tough time to Pakistan] as they have been World T20 champions twice. But, we are also number one and we will maintain that," he said.
"I recollect the last time I was here was during a Pakistan-England match and the visitors thrashed us. But, today we will see Pakistan cane the opposition."
The two of the four VIP enclosures remained empty despite their ticket prices being reduced by almost 60 percent than what was in the PSL final. But, with the crowd building, the level of excitement surged in the stands. The crowd chanted 'West Indies, West Indies' as the touring party entered the ground for the national anthems. But, those chants were nowhere in comparison to how a wave of cheer welcomed the Pakistani players - underscoring how much these people had yearned to see their stars in front of their eyes.
"Everyone is very excited and you can see the atmosphere around," Rafiq said. "Everyone is now feeling secure coming out. They want to come out and be a part of this series for the country. I couldn't come to the PSL final, because there were some problems. The family members were unable to get the tickets. But, now I am here."
It was not only Rafiq who had to watch the final on his television. Junaid bin Hasan, who wore a Pakistan's 2015 World Cup jersey, was also amongst those who had come to the stadium to fulfil their hunger for cricket after failing to get hold of the PSL final tickets.
"I didn't come to the PSL final as I couldn't get the passes for the match," Hasan said as all four members of his family burst into a laughter alongside him. A computer engineer by profession, Hasan had been a regular visitor to the NSK in his school days.
"I have come a lot to watch international cricket here when I was doing my matriculation," he said. "I have watched the 1996 World Cup final here. I had also witnessed Javed Miandad's last match here. It is great that international cricket has returned. And, it is only for that reason that we have walked here from Expo Center [approximately a kilometer away from the NSK].
The passionate Karachiites turned what could have been a total disaster into a moment of pride for the country. The Pakistani national anthem stopped playing at the half-way stage due to a technical glitch. Unperturbed by the flaw, the crowd continued to sing the anthem as the city had its goosebumps in unison.
The match did not really reflect the occasion though. A wretched bowling performance from West Indies began with Samuel Badree, Keemo Paul and Riyad Emrit well off their lines and lengths, Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam easily finding the gaps to take advantage of the fielding restrictions, and Pakistan speeding to 56 for 1 in the first six overs. You might be forgiven for not noticing the fielding restrictions had been lifted thereafter, as Pakistan continued along their merry way, never encumbered by tricky bowling or intelligent field setting. The quality of fielding from the tourists was amateur, singles on several occasions turning into boundaries as fielders under no pressure whatsoever let balls slip through their fingers.
Even when West Indies managed to take wickets, it wasn't down to the skill of the bowling. Until the 17th over, just three wickets and fallen, two of them to run-outs. Debutant Hussain Talat, who looked excellent as he top-scored with 41, was unfortunate enough to be involved in two mix-ups, the first one putting paid to Fakhar's bright start, while a collision between Sarfraz Ahmed and Kesrick Williams meant Talat himself was left stranded mid-pitch.
After a rare spell around the death overs in which West Indies looked to be reining Pakistan in somewhat, the shackles broke again in the penultimate over. What followed devastated West Indies and was arguably responsible for taking the wind out of their sails, even for the second innings. As Faheem Ashraf and Shoaib Malik freed their arms for a final flourish, Emrit and Williams found themselves helpless to stop the carnage. A whopping 41 runs came off the last ten balls as Pakistan surged to their joint-highest T20I total, setting West Indies a target of 204.
Hussain Talat watches the ball as he sets off for a run AFP
It was like bringing a gun to a knife fight; they needn't have bothered with such a vertigo-inducing total. The six that Chadwick Walton hit Mohammad Nawaz for off the first ball was a false dawn as West Indies quickly began to unravel. Other than Walton and Marlon Samuels, no one in the top five scored a single run. Andre Fletcher and Jason Mohammed looked to be giving Hussain Talat catching practice at cover, both falling in Mohammad Amir's first over. Denesh Ramdin, underwhelming in the PSL, didn't trouble the scorers either, holing out to midwicket, and when Samuels top-edged a big heave off Nawaz, the visitors had slumped to 33 for 6, and the contest was descending into farce.
West Indies would have been thankful to get past 39, the lowest T20I total ever, but there was no denying the innings was headed towards an early finish. Shoaib Malik removed the next two off consecutive deliveries just after West Indies crossed 50, and 79 - their previous lowest T20I score - was looking a long distance away. Particularly since West Indies were one man short; Veerasammy Permaul had injured his foot while bowling and would not bat.
And sure enough, with the score at 60, the last wicket fell, condemning West Indies to a slew of unwanted records: their lowest T20I score and the largest margin of defeat between two Full Members among the more ignominious ones.
Pakistan roll over West Indies as international cricket returns to Karachi
Pakistan roll over West Indies as international cricket returns to Karachi