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July 23, 2019

SL to decide on Pakistan Tests after security assessment

Sports

July 23, 2019


KARACHI: Pakistan could host a Test in their own backyard for the first time in more than ten years this fall after Sri Lanka agreed to a security assessment of the country.

The Pakistan have invited Sri Lanka to play their forthcoming two-Test series in Pakistan in October. According to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has assured that it will send a security delegation to Pakistan next month.

Pakistan were supposed to host the two-match series in the UAE but an improved security situation in the country has encouraged PCB to bid for a return of Test cricket here. Pakistan last hosted a Test back in 2009 when Sri Lanka’s team became a target of terrorists in Lahore. Since then they have hosted almost all of their home Tests in the UAE.

The upcoming matches are the first Test series for both sides in the upcoming Test Championship, with the result of each Test netting points towards the rankings.

PCB confirmed the boards had engaged on the sidelines of the recently concluded ICC annual conference in London. Though both boards have been in discussion since the Asia Cup meeting in Singapore, the invitation was only formally extended last week. The series is slotted for October, and while it is still most likely to be played in the UAE, Sri Lanka will only take a decision after they send a security delegation to inspect security plans in Lahore and Karachi.

In 2015, Zimbabwe became the first Full Member to tour Pakistan since 2009, with a limited-overs series held in Lahore. Despite extensive security measures, a bomb blast occurred 800m away from the Gaddafi Stadium during the second ODI, killing two people. Zimbabwe stayed on and finished the series two days later, but the tour did not lead to a change in the perceptions about security in Pakistan.

It was two years before a similarly high-profile match would occur in Pakistan. That was the Pakistan Super League final in March 2017 at the Gaddafi Stadium. This was followed by a successful tour of the World XI for three T20Is in September, which saw a number of high-profile cricketers turn up. The World XI side was coached by Andy Flower and included five players from South Africa - including Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla - three from Australia, two from West Indies and one player each from England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The matches received official T20I status from the ICC, who also hired independent experts to oversee security arrangements. Players were offered USD100,000 to play the series, which spanned five days.

Sri Lanka’s T20I squad then toured Pakistan for one match in 2017, though several regular players stayed away. Sri Lanka’s then T20I captain, Upul Tharanga, pulled out, along with Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya. The team was captained by Thisara Perera while SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala and sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara accompanied the side to Lahore. The brief tour became a major stepping stone and paved the way for PCB to convince teams to play more international cricket in Pakistan.

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