Who will emerge on the big night? © AFP
Who will emerge on the night of the final? © AFP

Pakistan fans were high on emotions earlier this week when they gathered outside Gaddafi International Stadium, Lahore to witness the first T20I between Pakistan and World XI. They had come in large numbers to cheer for their national side at home after 835 days of international cricket (Zimbabwe toured there in 2015). Let us, however, be honest: do we really remember the Zimbabwe series? Serious international cricket was returning to Pakistan soil after nine years. The delay was prolonged due to the infamous terror attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, in 2009.

That forgettable chapter is done and dusted. Cricket took centrestage on Tuesday, September 12. Morne Morkel marked his run-up and bowled the first ball of the landmark series. Fakhar Zaman lashed onto a nip-backer from Morkel and got a thick edge; the ball beat the keeper and raced towards the fence. It wasn’t a convincing shot, but it didn’t matter. Pakistani fans roared. They wanted to witness some action unfold between bat and ball between international cricketers on one of their iconic grounds. It was testimony to their almost-a-decade-long wait.

Pakistan won the series opener and marked the return of international cricket at home emphatically. World XI were still adapting to the conditions and their team combination. However, the script changed within a day. In the second encounter, Faf du Plessis’ side made amends, bowled to better lines and rode to their first T20I triumph courtesy Hashim Amla and Thisara Perera. Scoreline: 1-1 before the finale.

Jumme ke raat hai, jumme ke baat hai, allah bachaye tujhe mere vaar se

Jummah is the sixth day of the Islamic week, and the most auspicious day in Islamic calendar. As the Islamic week starts from Sunday, Jummah falls on Friday, and is a special day for Muslims across the globe. The series decider will be played on Jummah; Pakistanis, players and fans alike, will be kicking for a befitting conclusion. This is not just another series for Pakistan. This is a celebration of cricket returning to their shores. They will definitely not want to finish second.

Sarfraz Ahmed and co. will be hoping for Hasan Ali’s return. Hasan missed the last encounter with back pain. If fit, he will replace Usman Mir. The rest of the line-up should remain the same.

Pakistan XI: Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shahzad, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees, Sohail Khan, Shadab Khan

World XI won their first ever T20I the other night. Amla scored their maiden T20I fifty. Thisara and Amla put up their first ever fifty-run stand in the format. They clicked in all departments.

However, they will be wary of a wounded Pakistani line-up. They will restrict from tinkering with the winning combination. If they come out with the same XI, George Bailey may be the sole player of the side to return home without getting a game (but then, being left out without a reason is not new to him). That can make an ever-smiling Bailey dejected as well. After all, he didn’t come to Pakistan to be a part of the commentary box (that too alongside Rameez Raja).

World XI: Tamim Iqbal, Hashim Amla, Tim Paine (wk), Faf du Plessis (c), David Miller, Paul Collingwood, Thisara Perera, Ben Cutting/George Bailey, Imran Tahir, Samuel Badree, Morne Morkel

World XI will fight all odds to upset Pakistan on Friday. On the other hand, Jummah and local fans’ prayers will be on Pakistan’s side. Pakistan will look to wrap up a series which is surely close to their hearts. Will emotions lead to Pakistan’s victory or get the better of them?