England decision to tour Pakistan a 'massive moment' for cricket
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by Pirate IRWIN
England will tour Pakistan next year for the first time since a 2009 attack by gunmen on the visiting Sri Lankan team in a move hailed by England cricket authorities as "a significant moment".
England will play two Twenty20 internationals in Karachi on October 14 and 15 in their first visit to Pakistan since 2005.
England all-rounder Moeen Ali believes Pakistan's decision to honour their commitment to tour England in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic this year played a role.
Ali played in Pakistan in the Pakistan Super League and he thinks England's decision to play there will have positive, far-reaching consequences for the game, not least in Pakistan.
"It's a massive moment for cricket going forward," Ali said on a conference call from Cape Town ahead of a Twenty20 international series against South Africa.
"I think it's right we go back after such a long time for the game itself and for Pakistan and cricket in the country.
"We can't wait to go there."
ECB chief executive officer Tom Harrison hailed the move as a "significant moment for both nations".
Harrison said the priority would be to ensure the squad operated under the tightest security possible.
"We are working closely with the PCB to ensure all the necessary plans are in place," Harrison said.
"Especially concerning the anticipated levels of security around the team, the proposed travel protocols and of course the situation regarding the fast-moving and ever-changing Covid-19 pandemic."
International cricket in Pakistan was put on hold in 2009 after gunmen opened fire on the bus carrying the visiting Sri Lankan team in Lahore, killing eight people and wounding several players and officials.
Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan said England's tour was confirmation of the positive steps Pakistan had taken in assuring security for visiting teams, which has encouraged nations to return. Zimbabwe toured last month.
"The nation has waited patiently for cricket to return sustainably to Pakistan," Khan said in a statement.
"The enhanced progress made over the last two years has been down to nurturing relationships with various cricket boards and international players, as well as building trust and confidence.
"The ECB's confirmation further endorses Pakistan as safe and secure."
Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said England's decision will encourage other countries who have yet to commit to follow suit.
"I think there can't be bigger news for Pakistan cricket that England will tour Pakistan next year," he said.
"A successful step towards the revival of the game.
"It will go a long way in helping players as well as for the game.
"Once England tour, then confidence will grow for major teams to tour. This is big news and a big achievement."
England had tentatively suggested they would tour in early 2021 but due to prior commitments to Sri Lanka and India they would have been compelled to field a second string squad.
The T20 internationals will serve as a warm-up for the World Cup being hosted by India in October and November.
Pakistan gained favour with the ECB in going ahead with their tour of England earlier this year - as did the West Indies - despite the restrictions placed on the squad due to coronavirus protocols.
Pakistan played three Test matches and three T20Is (although one game was a no-result wash-out) in England.
"The teams that came over - West Indies and Pakistan - were amazing to have gone through the whole bubble after the coronavirus and all the news that cricket was on the edge," said England's Ali.
"They helped massively with that."