And just like that, it finally happened. A bowler ran in to bowl and a batsman blocked the ball. Over two thousand days of exile ended with that simple act of cricket.
The hours leading up to that moment had felt surprisingly normal. Those interminable queues shepherded by sweating policemen; that chaos and confusion around parking; the spontaneous humour throughout it all. At one point, as we crossed a row of metal detectors that were constantly going off, the crowd started mimicking the cacophony of robotic sounds. The serious cops broke into laughter, and the paranoia and nerves began to dissipate along with their chuckles.
The Lahore crowd also made the occasion count. The entire stadium was heaving when the Zimbabwean anthem came on and when they played the Pakistani anthem the very foundations of the stadium were left shaking. They were raucous right through the long build-up - the strict security meant that people were supposed to be at the ground well before the match started.
Pakistan also managed to take a simple match into an unnecessarily tight finish. What that meant was that instead of a cakewalk the crowd could expunge its nervous energy into a perfect crescendo. They shouted themselves hoarse, they smacked plastic bottles to a deafening rhythm, they howled Afridi's name. The captain obliged, smacking the winning boundary towards the stand that was dressed with banners saying #CricketComesHome. You couldn't have written a better script.
Years from now Pakistanis will look at the scorecard and wonder what the fuss was about. Why a one-sided T20 generated such meaning. But the simple answer is that after six years, a country had a chance to feel normal once again. A chance to remind itself that it was part of the larger world, that its hopes and dreams also had a right to exist. (Excerpts from A Glimpse of normalcy in Cacophony , Ahmer Naqvi)