England cricketers arrive in Karachi for first Pakistan tour since 2005 - in pictures

The 19-man England squad, captained by Jos Buttler, will play seven Twenty20 games against Pakistan in Karachi and Lahore from September 20 to October 2

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The England cricket team touched down in Karachi on Thursday morning for their first tour of Pakistan in 17 years.

England last played in Pakistan in 2005 and were due to visit last year until pulling out at short notice after New Zealand also cancelled a tour citing safety concerns.

Both moves infuriated the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), desperate to rehabilitate its security reputation. It claimed New Zealand refused to share details of the security threat, while England were unwilling to play “in restricted Covid environments” when Pakistan had taken a huge risk by travelling to England for a tour in 2020 during the peak of the pandemic and when vaccines were not available.

Following a deadly 2009 attack by Islamist militants on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore, Pakistan were forced to play international matches at neutral venues such as the UAE, where they hosted England for series in 2012 and 2015.

Over the past five years, international cricket has gradually returned to Pakistan and earlier this year Australia toured successfully for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.

The PCB said that the Australia series had "demonstrated our event planning and operational skills" and expressed confidence that the England games will also pass off safely.

On match days, roads between the England team hotel and Karachi's National stadium will be sealed off and under armed guard.

A helicopter will monitor their journey and shops and offices overlooking the stadium will be ordered to shut.

The last time England toured Pakistan, the government was waging a desperate battle with Islamist militants, including its own domestic chapter of the Taliban.

The security situation has vastly improved since then, but there has been an uptick in attacks since the Taliban stormed back to power in neighbouring Afghanistan.

In March an Islamic State suicide bomber attacked a minority Shiite mosque in the north-western city of Peshawar, killing 64 in the deadliest terror attack since 2018.

Most violence is confined to the porous border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan, which has long been a hive of militancy.

However, Karachi and Lahore have recently been targeted by Baloch separatist militant attacks. In April four people were killed in Karachi.

The tour comes as Pakistan grapples with catastrophic flooding that has left nearly a third of the country under water and affected at least 33 million people.

Last month the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said the team were "desperate" to play in Pakistan despite the humanitarian disaster.

The 19-man England squad, captained by Jos Buttler, will play seven Twenty20 games against Pakistan in Karachi and Lahore from September 20 to October 2 as both teams tune-up for next month's T20 World Cup in Australia.

England will return in December to play three five-day Test matches.

Pakistan's own preparation for England's tour as well as the T20 World Cup were somewhat dampened by the team's 23-run defeat to Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup 2022 final in Dubai last week.

Sri Lanka beat Pakistan to win Asia Cup final

Updated: September 15, 2022, 8:04 AM
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