LAHORE: England’s first Test series in Pakistan in 17 years will begin in Rawalpindi before matches in Multan and Karachi, the Pakistan Cricket Board said on Monday as it announced the schedule.

England last toured in 2005, before Pakistan were forced to play international matches at neutral venues due to security concerns following an attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009.

International cricket has gradually returned since 2015, but suffered another setback when New Zealand pulled out of a tour minutes before a one-day international was due to start in September last year, citing security alerts.

A week later England scrapped tours to Pakistan by both its men’s and women’s teams.

The PCB has worked hard to convince teams to visit the country again and Australia this year undertook their first tour of Pakistan in 24 years.

England, who pulled out of a scheduled tour last year, will play seven Twenty20 Internationals beginning on Sept 20 on the first leg of the tour before heading home.

They will return after the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia to play three Tests with the first scheduled to start in Rawalpindi on Dec 1.

Multan hosts the second match from Dec 9 and the last Test begins in Karachi on Dec 17.

“We are pleased that Pakistan and England test rivalry, which has historically produced close and tight matches, will return to our backyards in December,” PCB director Zakir Khan said in a statement.

“Both the sides have evolved since they last played in Pakistan in 2005 and have recently been playing entertaining and exciting cricket. I remain confident this series will live up to the expectations of the global cricket fans who want to watch and enjoy competitive and thrilling matches.”

Clare Connor, Interim Chief Executive of the England and Wales Cricket Board, called it a “historic occasion”.

“Pakistan cricket fans have waited for almost 17 years to see elite England players in action,” she said. “We have been working closely with the PCB over recent months and I am grateful to them for everything they have done, and continue to do, to make our Test and T20 tours a mouth-watering prospect for all involved.”

The first Test will mark the first time England will play at the Pindi Cricket Stadium, where Pakistan have won five out of 12 matches.

On their last tour of Pakistan, England lost the Multan Test — the hosts’ only loss in five matches at the venue — while it was England, who in 2000, ended Pakistan’s 34-Test unbeaten streak at the National Stadium in Karachi.

Compared to the other two venues, the Multan Stadium is the farthest away from the city centre and will disrupt transport for the locals when the teams travel to and from the ground.

PCB chairman Ramiz Raja has spoken about building accommodation close to the ground in Multan but a detailed plan hasn’t yet been unveiled.

The three fixtures will count towards the ICC World Test Championship. Pakistan are currently fifth in the table and England seventh.

Schedule:

First Test: December 1-5 (Rawalpindi)

Second Test: December 9-13 (Multan)

Third Test: December 17-21 (Karachi)

Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2022

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