KARACHI: Test cricket will return to Pakistan after a long gap of 10 years after Sri Lanka agreed to a tour for two matches next month, the Pakistan Cricket Board announced yesterday. The vote of confidence from Sri Lanka is hugely symbolic, as it was the attack on their team bus during a visit to Lahore in 2009 which drove international cricket away from Pakistan as the country grappled with militancy.
Six policemen and two civilians were killed while seven Sri Lankan players were injured in the attack. For years afterwards, Pakistan hosted all its “home” games in the United Arab Emirates as foreign teams refused to visit the cricket-mad country for security fears.
But Pakistan has seen a dramatic improvement in security in recent years, and international cricket has begun to creep back. Minnows Zimbabwe became the first team to return Pakistan in 2015 for one-days and Twenty20s, followed by a Twenty20 series by a World XI in 2017, a one-off T20 match against Sri Lanka later that year, and a visit by the West Indies in 2018.
Sri Lanka also completed three one-day internationals and as many Twenty20s in Karachi and Lahore last month. But the announcement of a Test series, still the most highly regarded cricket format, is an important step — especially when it involves Sri Lanka.
“The Test series schedule was confirmed today after Cricket Sri Lanka gave their thumbs-up… following a highly successful visit last month,” said a Pakistan Cricket Board statement Thursday.
The first Test will be played in Rawalpindi from December 11-15, while the second Test will be held in Karachi from December 19-23. “Sri Lanka’s one-day and T20 tour not only delivered security from the top draw, but packed houses sent out a loud and clear message about the security situation in the country as well as passion for the game,” the PCB said.
“This is fabulous news for Pakistan and its reputation of being as safe and secure as any other country in the world,” added PCB director of international cricket Zakir Khan. The PCB statement quoted Cricket Sri Lanka’s chief executive Ashley de Silva as saying they were “pleased” to confirm the tour.
“We are comfortable and convinced conditions are suitable and conducive for Test cricket,” he was quoted as saying. The two Tests will be part of the World Test Championship, which is being played between the top nine teams of the world, culminating in a final in June 2021. – AFP