England confirm invitation to tour Pakistan in 2021

London (AFP) –


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.

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 in a move that helped spare the England and Wales Cricket Board an estimated £280 million ($366 million) loss if their 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.

"It would be a great opportunity to go and play there personally."

England are meant to tour South Africa next month but a shadow has been cast over that campaign after the country's government signalled 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 England travel to India for a Test series.