The England cricket team has arrived in Karachi for its first tour of Pakistan in 17 years, a long absence prompted by security fears.
England last played in Pakistan in 2005 and had planned to visit last year but canceled at short notice after New Zealand withdrew from a tour over security concerns.
The move angered the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), who called it “disrespectful” and desperate to show the country was safe again after a deadly attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009.
The 19-man away team, captained by Jos Buttler, will play seven Twenty20 matches against Pakistan in Karachi and Lahore from September 20 to October 2; as both teams prepare for next month’s ICC T20 World Cup in Australia.
“We are delighted to be here. It’s my first experience in Pakistan,” Buttler said. “Some of the players who took part in the Pakistan Super League have shared positive things about Pakistan and how much the public loves the game.”
Former Pakistani cricketer Sadiq Muhammed praised the England team’s tour. “It seems to bode well for other teams’ future tours,” he told Al Jazeera by phone from Karachi.
After the attack by gunmen on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore, Pakistan was forced to play international matches in neutral venues such as the United Arab Emirates where they hosted England in 2012 and 2015.
Earlier this year, Australia toured successfully for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century. The PCB said the Australia series “demonstrated our event planning and operational skills” and expressed confidence that the games in England would also be safe.
On match days, the roads between the England team hotel and the National Stadium in Karachi are closed and under armed guard. A helicopter will follow their journey and shops and offices overlooking the stadium will be closed.
The last time Britain visited Pakistan, Islamabad fought armed rebels in various parts of the country. The security situation has improved greatly since then; but the number of attacks has increased since the Taliban returned to power in neighboring Afghanistan.
In March, an ISIL (ISIS) suicide bomber attacked a Shia mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar; killing 64 people in the deadliest armed attack since 2018.
Most violent incidents are confined to the porous border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, Karachi and Lahore were recently targeted by Baloch separatists. In April, four people were killed, including three Chinese citizens, in Karachi.
The tour comes as Pakistan is also facing catastrophic flooding that has flooded nearly a third of the country and affected at least 33 million people.
“I’m super excited and looking forward to seeing England and Buttler in Pakistan,” said Masum Rizvi, an electrician in Karachi.
Last month, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said the team was “desperate” to play despite the humanitarian disaster in Pakistan.
“I think hopefully it will be positive to go out and play at what has been a pretty harrowing time for the people of that country,” said Rob Key, director of men’s cricket.
England returns in December to play three friendlies over five days.
Pakistan squad for England T20Is:
Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Aamir Jamal, Abrar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed; Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan; Mohammad Wasim Junior, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Shan Masood and Usman Qadir
England’s T20I Squad
Jos Buttler (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Harry Brook, Sam Curran; Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Phil Salt, Ben Stokes, Reece Topley, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
Traveling reserves: Liam Dawson, Richard Gleeson, Tymal Mills.
Schedule Of England Tour of Pakistan
- 1st T20: Pakistan v England, 20 September, National Stadium, Karachi
- 2nd T20: Pakistan v England, 22 September, National Stadium, Karachi
- 3rd T20: Pakistan v England, 23 September, National Stadium, Karachi
- 4th T20: Pakistan v England, 25 September, National Stadium, Karachi
- 5th T20: Pakistan v England, 28 September, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
- 6th T20: Pakistan v England, 30 September, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
- 7th T20: Pakistan v England, 2 October, Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore