England cricketers will tour Pakistan for the first time since a deadly 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team bus, the English and Wales Cricket Board announced on Wednesday.
England will play two Twenty20 internationals in Karachi on October 14 and 15 next year in a move hailed as a “significant moment for both nations” by the ECB’s chief executive officer Tom Harrison.
“It’s a real pleasure to announce that the England men’s IT20 squad will be playing in Pakistan in October 2021,” said Harrison in a statement. “This will be the first time since 2005 that an England team has toured Pakistan and as such it represents a significant moment for both nations.”
Harrison added that the priority would be to ensure the squad operated under the greatest security possible. “As always, the safety and welfare of our players and staff will be paramount,” he said.
“We are working closely with the PCB to ensure all the necessary plans are in place, especially concerning the anticipated levels of security around the team, the proposed travel protocols and of course the situation regarding the fast-moving and ever-changing Covid-19 pandemic.”
His Pakistan counterpart Wasim Khan said England’s tour was confirmation of the positive steps Pakistan had taken in assuring security for visiting teams. “England’s visit to Pakistan for the 14 and 15 October 2021 T20Is will provide further lift to our passionate fans,” said Khan in a statement.
“The nation has waited patiently for cricket to return sustainably to Pakistan and the 2021 tours by South Africa, New Zealand and England will only ensure international cricket is played uninterruptedly.
“The enhanced progress made over the last two years has been down to nurturing relationships with various cricket boards and international players, as well as building trust and confidence. “The ECB’s confirmation further endorses Pakistan as safe and secure.”
England had tentatively suggested they would tour in early 2021 but due to prior commitments to Sri Lanka and India they would have been compelled to field a second string squad.
The T20 internationals will serve as a warm-up for the World Cup being hosted by India in October and November. Pakistan gained favour with the ECB in going ahead with their tour of England earlier this year — as did the West Indies — despite the restrictions placed on the squad due to coronavirus protocols.
Pakistan played three Test matches, three one-day internationals and three T20Is in England. “Importantly, this announcement speaks volumes for the relationship that we have with the ECB,” said Khan.
International cricket in Pakistan was put on hold in 2009 after gunmen attacked the Sri Lankan team bus during the second Test in Lahore, killing eight people and wounding several players and officials.
England have subsequently played Pakistan on neutral territory in the United Arab Emirates but Pakistan had said that any future tour would have to be on Pakistani soil.