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UK's Oval on high alert for India-Pakistan cricket match


Posted: Jun 03, 2009 at 1048 hrs IST

London: Security around the Oval cricket ground here has been stepped up in view of the India-Pakistan Twenty20 warm-up match to be held on Wednesday with extra night watchmen and sniffer dogs pressed into services around the venue.

It will be the first Indian-Pakistan cricket encounter since the November Mumbai attacks, and officials are taking no chances to ensure that the match passes off peacefully. Tournament director Steve Elworthy said, "The sporting landscape has changed hugely since the tragedies in Mumbai and Lahore. We need to be confident we're on top of the situation, which we are."

Security has also been stepped up in venues where the Sri Lanka team is scheduled to play, given the recent events in the island nation and demonstrations in London against the Sri Lanka government's offensive against the Tamil Tigers. A dedicated Police Intelligence Cell headed by the former chief constable Sir John Evans, has been set with the mandate to supervise security arrangements for the whole Twenty20 World Cup tournament.

Last week, the Sri Lanka team cancelled a speaking engagement at the Oxford Union because of security concerns. As many as 23,000 tickets for the Tuesday match were sold out within 48 hours, and the proceeds will be forwarded to the International Cricket Council's charitable initiative "Catch the Spirit".

The beneficiaries will include the families of those killed in the Lahore terror attacks, as well as various educational schemes across the subcontinent. Haroon Lorgat, ICC chief executive, played down security concerns, "I don't see any tensions here. I see a hugely exciting occasion, and one that will help the victims of the Lahore incident."

Paul Sheldon, Surrey chief executive, is delighted to host the India-Pakistan match. He said, "This will be one of the most memorable events the Oval has ever staged."

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