Euro 2020 Special
 

Pakistan vs England T20I Preview: England Return to Pakistan After 17-Year Hiatus

For the first time in 17 years, an England cricket team will play in Pakistan, with the two teams set to play seven T20Is in the next two weeks, four in Karachi, and three in Lahore.

The first match will be played in Karachi on September 20th, with both teams using the series as part of their World Cup preparations.

 

England’s long absence

England last toured Pakistan in 2005.

Four years after that the Sri Lankan team bus was attacked by a terrorist group on the way to the ground before a Test match in Lahore. Six Pakistan policemen and two civilians were killed in the resulting gun battle, and six members of the Sri Lankan team as well as several match officials travelling in the convoy were attacked.

Immediately all cricket tours to the country stopped, and for the best part of a decade, Pakistan were forced to play their home matches in the Middle East in front of largely empty stadiums.

As the security situation in the country has improved, however, gradually international sport has returned there, and it is now judged safe enough for England to return.

In fact, England were due to tour a year ago, but then cancelled at the last minute following the example of New Zealand in citing safety reasons. That caused some friction with the Pakistan cricket board at the time, so this tour is by way of making amends, as much as anything else.

 

Tight security

Despite the improved situation in Pakistan, no chances are being taken with security. For the duration of the tour, the Pakistan Cricket Board has handed the tourists six bulletproof buses for daily travel, and there are more than 300 security personnel stationed around the hotel where they are staying, including plain clothes police officers armed with automatic weapons

On match days, roads to the stadium will be closed, nearby offices, shops and petrol stations have been told they must shut, whilst snipers will be placed on rooftops along the route. A helicopter will also monitor the journey from above.

Needless to say, the sightseeing which is part of normal tours is completely off the agenda.

 

Ali’s opportunity

Although England’s white ball captain Jos Buttler is with the touring party, it is still not clear what part, if any, he can play in the matches because he is still suffering from a calf injury he picked up in The Hundred.

In his absence, Moeen Ali will lead the team on the field, an emotional opportunity for him because he is of Pakistani heritage.

Another man who will be looking to impress is batter Alex Hales. He has not been picked by England for more than three years after being excluded from the international set-up for failing to disclose he had failed two tests for recreational drugs use. However, when Jonny Bairstow’s World Cup hopes were ended when he suffered a freak injury slipping on a golf tee, it was decided that Hales should be recalled from Purdah.

 

Can Babar find some form?

Pakistan will be looking to put the disappointment of the Asia Cup behind them, where they lost in the final to Sri Lanka in Dubai.

And it will be a chance for their skipper Babar Azam to find some overdue form ahead of the World Cup. At the start of the Asia Cup he was the number one ranked T20I batter, but a series of disappointing scores in the Middle East has seen him drop to third in the standings.

His colleague Mohammad Rizwan has taken over at the top of the T20I rankings, but he was not immune from criticism himself after the Sri Lanka defeat, with concerns about how quickly he scores his runs in T20I cricket. This is a good chance for him to set the record straight.

 

Prediction

Since Buttler took over from Eoin Morgan as England’s white ball captain, the team have struggled, and lost T20I series on home soil against both India and South Africa.  Playing in conditions that few of the touring party have ever experienced also makes the task doubly difficult.

As a consequence, Pakistan must consider themselves favourites to win the series, but, with the World Cup in mind, performances at this stage matter almost as much as results.

And all concerned will have their fingers crossed that the whole tour can be completed without incident.

 

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