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PSL final, a moment of catharsis for Lahore

The fans came in large numbers, the security was top notch, and though the match itself was one-sided, the fact it took place was huge for Pakistan

Lahore fans express their delight at cricket's return to Pakistan, Peshawar Zalmi v Quetta Gladiators, PSL 2016-17, final, Lahore, March 5, 2017

Lahore fans express their delight at cricket's return to Pakistan  •  AFP

Six army paragliders dive out of a helicopter and land in the Gaddafi Stadium. Goosebumps. It was one of several events that made clear the PSL final was about more than just a match for Pakistan. It was about changing perception, a step towards ending their isolation from hosting international cricket. And in that moment, watching the country's top security personnel put on a show, the fear that had gripped the people of Lahore after the recent wave of bombings was forgotten.
More than 22,000 made their way through the gates, braving security checks that began two kilometres outside the ground. The closest roads were blocked for traffic by 2 pm and wary policemen patrolled the streets. But the hassle didn't matter. Something special, something most missed, was coming home.
There were free shuttles to drive the fans from the first checkpoint to the second, and as they travelled they were treated to a selection of the most patriotic Pakistani songs. The crowd was made to line up at the final layer of security and wait for their transport to take them to the stands. The journey took them past the roundabout where the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked eight years ago. Things have changed a lot since then, but have they changed enough?
Terrorism has hurt Pakistan. A recent wave of attacks took over 100 lives in the space of five days. Lahore, the second-largest city in the country, was also under severe risk but the PCB did not give in. They had the Punjab government in their corner, which brought no less than the army to ensure the safety of those attending the PSL final. It was unfortunate that Quetta Gladiators' overseas players could not come and play the game - which turned lopsided without Kevin Pietersen, Tymal Mills, Rilee Rossouw, Luke Wright and Nathan McCullum - but it didn't really matter either.
The evening began with a huge roar of Lahore Lahore aye. The Gaddafi was full well before the paragliders touched down wearing the flags of the five teams and then the country's own. Everything went off without a hitch. Tickets were sold out within two days of their being available despite a large majority of them priced at 8000 Pakistan rupees and above.
There was a huge support for Peshawar Zalmi and, by the end of the night, their captain was renamed Darren Sammy Khan. He responded in kind too, taking as many selfies with the crowd as he could. An equally warm ovation was given to the Rangers and the policemen, with sincere applause and stirring salutes.
The match itself turned out to be damp and one-sided. Complications with the presentation ceremony didn't help matters either; it began in haste and was quite rushed with security personnel extremely concerned about getting the players out of the ground. Even in such extraordinary circumstances, daily life in Lahore wasn't affected. Those who had turned up for the match dispersed calmly and a city of 18 million kept chugging along.
The PSL has ended, quite successfully as well. But what now? Will the final convince other teams to tour Pakistan? The security advisor to the ICC Sean Norris was present at the match. So were representatives from England (Reg Dickason and Julian Siebrand), Australia (Sean Carroll), Sri Lanka (Sarathchandra Liyanage), Bangladesh (Major AKM Anisud Dowla) and an independent expert from Nicholls Steyn and Associates (Robert Nicholls, who has worked with South Africa when the organised the 2003 World Cup).
An immediate revival of international cricket in Pakistan seems some distance away. Imran Khan, the legendary world-cup winning captain, actually thought hosting the PSL final in Lahore was madness. But it's smooth conduct indicated that the fans need not lose hope. And they didn't.
"Phir seeti bajay gi," they said happily while leaving the stadium, "Stage sajay gaa, Aur taali bajay gi, Aur phir khel jamay ga." [There will be whistles again, the stage will be decorated again, there will be applause again, there will be play again]".

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent