LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — West Indies World Twenty20 winning captain Darren Sammy was among nine foreign cricketers to arrive in Lahore early Sunday as extraordinary security measures were put in place around Gaddafi Stadium to ensure a peaceful Pakistan Super League final.
Hundreds of fans started lining up in long queues to clear three checkpoints at least six hours before the final between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators begins at 1500 GMT.
"Even if we have to pass through a dozen security checkpoints we won't mind," said Mohammad Afzal, a smiling 25-year-old Peshawar fan.
A special shuttle bus service was put in place at two security checkpoints that carried spectators to the 14 entry gates of the Gaddafi Stadium.
Peshawar will be led by Sammy, who is joined by three other foreigners in England's Dawid Malan and Chris Jordan along with fellow West Indies player Marlon Samuels.
Last year's finalist Quetta had to reshuffle its team because four of its foreign players refused to travel to Pakistan due to security concerns. The team played its league matches in the United Arab Emirates.
But Quetta managed to convince Rayad Emrit of West Indies, Anamul Haque of Bangladesh, South African Morne van Wyk and Zimbabwe's Elton Chigumbura and Sean Ervine to play in the final.
All nine foreign cricketers involved arrived at the team hotel in the early hours of Sunday amid tight security en route from the airport.
Security officials used sniffer dogs as part of a massive security sweep of the 25,000-capacity stadium.
"It's not a matter of who wins or loses tonight, it's a big day for Pakistan as we wanted to show the world we can host international matches too," said 18-year-old student Iftikhar Ahmed, who arrived at the venue hours before the game was due to start.
Pakistan has not hosted a major test playing nation since 2009 when terrorists attacked a Sri Lanka team bus, killing seven policemen and injuring several Sri Lanka players.
Since the attack, only Zimbabwe has visited Pakistan for a short limited-overs series in 2015. The Pakistan Cricket Board hopes Sunday's final will help it to regain the confidence of other test playing nations.
A series of bomb blasts in Lahore last month, including one at a rally in Lahore that killed 13 people, raised doubts over the staging of the PSL final in the city.
But the PCB got the support of the Punjab provincial government, the federal government and the Pakistani army to go ahead.
At least 8,000 security officials including policemen and soldiers had been deployed around the stadium and the route from the teams' hotel as part of the beefed up security ahead of the highly anticipated final.
PSL chairman Najam Sethi, who is also chairman of the PCB's executive committee, said on Sunday that he looked at the PSL final as the opening for Pakistan to bring back international cricket.
He said that the PCB was in talks with the cricket boards of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to tour Pakistan later this year after successfully organizing Sunday night's Twenty20 match.
While dozens of provincial and federal government ministers are expected to witness Sunday's final, cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan has criticized the PCB's decision to choose Lahore for the final.
Khan called the decision "madness" and said the heavy security will send the wrong signal to the world.