LAHORE - Pakistan went cricket frenzy on Sunday giving the game a new meaning when the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final showdown turned into a show of Pakistanis’ resilience and courage against terrorism.

The zeal of cricket crazy nation evaporated all the terror fears up into smoke as people from all over the country thronged Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium to show their resolve against the terrorists and their enthusiasm for the sport Pakistan is famous for.

The clash between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators in the city known as the Heart of Pakistan marked the culmination of the Twenty20 tournament which has otherwise been played in the UAE.

There was a colourful pre-match ceremony starting with parachutists making a dramatic entry at the stadium, where foreign players led by West Indies Darren Sammy also danced and interacted with the crowd.

Actors Ahmed Ali Butt and Ayesha Omer hosted the ceremony while, surrounded by traditional dancers, singer Ali Zafar opened the show with his new PSL song ‘Ab Khel Jamay Ga’. Fakhir sung to the crowd his old favourite ‘Tere Bina Dil Na Lagay’.

In his welcoming address PSL Chairman Najam Sethi attributed the fulfilled mission of holding the event in Pakistan to peoples’ huge response and zeal.

“Today it is because of you that we are in Lahore,” he told the crowd.

“Today there are people here from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Karachi, Quetta ? from every part of Pakistan. This is a show of solidarity. The whole world should see we are together. We will not bow our heads before anyone. We can do anything.”

Lahore wore a festive look with excitement all around and all the roads leading to Gaddafi filled with colours and excitement.

The 27,000-capacity stadium had been aesthetically decorated by the sponsors of the country’s biggest cricket match in years. On Saturday, paratroopers from army’s Special Services Group exhibited their acrobatics over the ground.

Citizens celebrated PSL final like a as the whole nation, regardless of any political affiliation, seemed on same page by showing spirit to defeat terrorists.

People from all walks of life enjoyed the moments, especially youths and children celebrated the day with a lot of pride by wearing colourful shirts, hats, face-paintings and some special traditional dresses. Besides this, people of all ages showed love with the country on return of international cricket in the homeland.

They said that Pakistan is a peaceful and supportive land for international cricket and the world would come to know it today.

Big screens had also been installed in many cities in the country for the cricket enthusisats.

Pakistan has hosted only one international series since militants attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009. The Zimbabwe cricket team’s tour in 2015 was almost disrupted when a suicide bomber killed two security officials near the stadium in Lahore.

After wavering momentarily on whether to host the Pakistan Super League (PSL) final in Lahore after a series of militant attacks killed more than 130 people last month, the country’s civil and military leadership seem to have pushed ahead with their decision.

Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah said the government had “prepared a fool-proof security plan” for the match, expected to finish after midnight.

Citing security fears, some high-profile foreign players, including England’s Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright and Tymal Mills have all withdrawn, along with their Quetta team-mates Rilee Rossouw of South Africa and New Zealand’s Nathan McCullum.

“I have a young family… a game of cricket is just not worth the risk,” tweeted Wright, adding that “all overseas players” had a clause in their contract exempting them from the final.

However, West Indies’ World Cup-winning T20 captain Darren Sammy, who plays for Peshawar, was on the field along with his other foereign teammates. Quetta also reinforced their line-up by picking up five new foreign players who agreed to come and play in Pakistan.

Peshawar Zalmi’s foreign players already loved the cricket fever that has gripped the entire Pakistani nation ahead of the grand finale tonight.

West Indian all-rounder Marlon Samuels believed his native West Indies and Pakistan are similar when it comes to cricket spirit.

“This is a big deal for a cricket-loving nation. We can see how important it is for people here that cricket has returned to Pakistan today, it’s awesome to see the joy on the people’s faces. That’s why we are here,” Samuels said.

When asked who is going to win tonight, Samuels said the ultimate winner will be Pakistan cricket.

“Pakistan cricket is gonna win. Nevertheless, we will take the trophy,” he added with a wink and a deadpan expression.

England all-rounder Chris Jordan, already overwhelmed with the great welcome he and his team have received in Lahore, said it is very special for Peshawar to be in the final.

Zimbabwean cricket player Elton Chigumbura and cricket commentator and Coach of Islamabad United Dean Jones also expressed satisfaction over the best security arrangements for final.

Chigumbura, who joined Quetta for the final, said that security for them was marvellous, adding he was looking forward to have a good time. “It is a good sign that due to PCB efforts, a galaxy of foreign players was taking part in PSL event which will help a lot in reviving international cricket in Pakistan”, he added.

Jones said that with the visit of foreign players from various cricket playing countries, a major cricket activity was being evolved which would help in presenting positive image of Pakistan.

“The pragmatic step of starting the league will usher in a new era of exciting cricket in Pakistan”, he said. “The day is not far when foreign teams will start touring Pakistan,” Jones added.

Unprecedented five-layer security arrangements have been put in place for the PSL final, which have never been seen.

A senior PCB official said the security of Gaddafi Stadium had been handed over to Rangers. “Four companies of Rangers will perform duty till the final match on Sunday night,” said PCB director media Amjad Hussain.

For the first-time ever, a five-layer security had been provided to the two domestic teams which will also feature eight foreign cricketers each.

The army personnel, rangers and police officials have completely cordoned off the area and their vehicles were frequently patrolling the area around stadium.

National Database and Registration Authority had deployed its four mobile database vans in the stadium to check any fake CNICs then and there.

A temporary 25-bed hospital has also been set up at the National Hockey Stadium, adjacent to the Gaddafi Stadium, to meet any medical emergency.

The City Traffic Police and administration made a comprehensive traffic, parking and shuttle service plan to address traffic jam issue on the event of PSL final.

Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif also made a surprise visit to Gaddafi Stadium bearlier in the day and its surrounding areas in order to check security measures.

Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah and PSL Chairman, Najam Sethi also accompanied the Chief Minister. Officials said the CM visited the venue and reviewed arrangements. He was briefed over security plan and other arrangements.

Over 10,000 security personnel, including army men, will provide unprecedented protection for the final of the Pakistan Super League in Lahore, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif announced on the eve of the match. “More than 10,000 cops, rangers and army personnel will provide fool-proof security to PSL 2017 final at Gaddafi Stadium Lahore,” Sharif said.

The PCB’s own bullet-proof buses had been used for carrying the teams from their hotels to the stadium and back. Sniffer dogs, which were also used when India toured here in 2004, were visible in good numbers at the Gaddafi Stadium.

Director General Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Mahmood has conveyed good luck to the playing teams of PSL final in Lahore. In his Pakistan Zindabad tweet, DG, ISPR welcomed the foreign players and guests to the mega event. He said games promote peace and goodwill.

The country has been desperate for international cricket events to return but some media commentators have accused officials of risking lives by staging an event during a period of heightened security threats.

Officials, however, say security in the country has greatly improved over the past few years and the recent bout of violence was a temporary blip.