England cricket matches in Pakistan called off following security concerns

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has cancelled a warm-up tour in Pakistan for England’s men’s and women’s teams following last week’s security concerns expressed by New Zealand.

The teams were each scheduled to play two T20 international matches on 13 and 14 October in Rawalpindi, with the women’s side due to stay on for further internationals from 17-21 October.

The ECB says it is “sincerely sorry” for the decision, made “reluctantly”, and that members “understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board)”.

The trip, which would have been the first ever by an England women’s team and the first by their male counterparts since 2005, had been in doubt due to security fears.

It comes three days after New Zealand Cricket abandoned its men’s limited-overs tour of Pakistan, saying it had been warned of a possible attack outside Rawalpindi Stadium.

The ECB said: “The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in.

“We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region and believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted COVID environments.”

Ramiz Raja, the chairman of the PCB, expressed disappointment over the decision, seen as a massive blow to the South Asian country’s hopes of staging regular international cricket.

He wrote on Twitter: “Disappointed with England, pulling out of their commitment & failing a member of their Cricket fraternity when it needed it most.

“Survive we will inshallah. A wake up call for Pakistan team to become the best team in the world for teams to line up to play them without making excuses.”

The PCB is confident in its security arrangements and believes the country is safe to host international cricket despite New Zealand’s hasty exit.

The ECB acknowledged the news would not be well received – particularly by teams who helped rescue England’s 2020 summer by travelling in restrictive bubble environments at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB, who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country,” it said.

“Their support of English and Welsh cricket over the last two summers has been a huge demonstration of friendship. We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasise an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022.”

International teams have largely stayed away from Pakistan since an attack by Islamist militants on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 that killed six policemen and two civilians.

There are fears that New Zealand’s decision will prompt Australia, who are scheduled to visit in February-March next year, to do the same.

A Cricket Australia spokesperson said the organisation was monitoring the situation and would “talk with the relevant authorities once more information becomes known”.

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