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November 21, 2009
Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium - named after Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi in 1974 - celebrated 50 years as an international venue on Saturday. It hosted its first Test, between Pakistan and Australia, on this day in 1959, a game the visitors won by seven wickets.
Despite the occasion for celebration, Lahore has had a disappointing year, for the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in March, which injured seven players and killed eight people, has put the Pakistan's viability as international venue in doubt. Pakistan, which was one of the original co-hosts of the 2011 World Cup, lost their rights to stage the competition and their allotted matches were distributed among India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Groudsman Haji Bashir, who joined the stadium staff as assistant groundsman in 1959 for the first Test at the venue, said the 50th anniversary was significant despite the loss of international cricket. "Celebrating 50 years of the Gaddafi Stadium is special for Pakistan cricket and for me," Bashir was quoted as saying by AFP. "The attacks were horrifying and deprived us of cricket but I am sure this historic ground and our beloved country will host international matches very soon."
Bashir did recall some memorable moments, foremost among them being the Test against India in 1978, where Pakistan sealed an eight-wicket win on an action-packed final day. It was their first win over India at home, after cricketing ties were restored between the countries following a 17-year gap.
The Gaddafi Stadium has hosted 40 Tests. In 1978, it staged the first of its 58 ODIs, the most notable among them is the 1996 World Cup final between Sri Lanka and Australia.
The venue, since 1959, has also been the headquarters of Pakistan cricket, housing the offices of the PCB. Wasim Bari, the PCB's chief operating officer, said: "Gaddafi Stadium is truly the home of Pakistan cricket. It is one of the most beautiful grounds in Asia and we are trying our level best to bring international cricket back to our stadiums."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.