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England confirm invitation to tour Pakistan in 2021

First Test - England v Pakistan
First Test - England v Pakistan

England could tour Pakistan for the first time in over a decade after officials confirmed they had received an invitation to visit the Asian giants early in 2021 for a "short white-ball series".

Fifty-over world champions England have not played in Pakistan since 2005/06.

An attack by armed militants on Sri Lanka's team bus in Lahore in 2009 ended major cricket tours for a decade.

But Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, West Indies, and Bangladesh have all since made the trip.

An England and Wales Cricket Board statement issued Thursday said: "After discussions with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), we can confirm the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has received an invitation in respect of a short white-ball tour to Pakistan during the early part of 2021.

"We welcome the fact that international cricket is returning to Pakistan and are committed to doing what we can to help this develop further."

The statement added that "the safety and welfare of our players and staff is paramount", with security issues and the development of Covid-19 secure 'bubbles' of the kind pioneered in England this year among the ECB's key concerns.

"We will be liaising with the PCB, and as well as other partners over the coming weeks to work through these considerations before a final decision will be taken in due course," the ECB said.

Although the ECB did not specify any dates, Wasim Khan, the Birmingham-born chief executive of the PCB said: "We have sent them a window of January 13-20, so we will do our best to make this tour happen.

"They (the ECB) will consider it (the invitation) and have a security assessment.

"It will be a very important tour and help improve our credibility as a host," he added.

It is understood the proposed tour could consist of three T20 internationals, none of which would replace England's rescheduled tour of Sri Lanka.

Pakistan, following in the footsteps of the West Indies, visited England this year for three Tests and three T20 internationals despite Britain being one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Two of the international cricket's financially poorer leading sides helped spare one of the wealthiest in England an estimated £280 million ($366 million) loss if all the ECB's scheduled matches were wiped out by Covid-19.

That prompted Pakistan great Wasim Akram to say in August: "You (England) boys owe Pakistan cricket, and the country, a lot, with the boys coming over here."

The same month saw Joe Root, England's Test captain, say: "I'd love to go and visit Pakistan."

England is meant to tour South Africa next month but a shadow has been cast over that campaign after the country's government signaled it was about to intervene in the Proteas' chaotic cricket administration.

They could then be in Sri Lanka in January for a tour that was originally halted in March because of the virus outbreak before traveling to India for a Test series that may, like this year's Indian Premier League, be moved to the UAE on virus-related health grounds. AFP

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