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Cricket

England tour of Pakistan next month set to be axed over security fears after New Zealand pull out of tour

ENGLAND’S tour of Pakistan next month is likely to be called off this weekend amid rising security fears.

The move comes after New Zealand abandoned their trip to Pakistan just hours before the first one-day international was due to start.

Pakistan visited England for a three-game T20 series in July

With doubts over the Ashes continuing because of Covid restrictions, it is the latest blow to England’s uncertain winter plans.

Even if the Ashes take place, some players could pull out and all-rounder Ben Stokes seems certain to miss the trip.

The Kiwis’ decision to quit Pakistan was made after “an escalation in the New Zealand government threat levels for Pakistan.”

But it caused widespread anger and the Pakistan Cricket Board insisted that “no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team.”

The country’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, the 1992 World Cup-winning captain, made a vain plea to his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern to continue with the trip.

As England use the same security advisers as New Zealand, it seems inconceivable that Eoin Morgan and his team will now visit Pakistan.

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England men are due to play T20 internationals in Rawalpindi on October 13 and 14 as a ‘thank you’ for Pakistan coming to the UK last summer. England women are scheduled to play six white-ball matches.

England have not played in Pakistan since 2005.

Ever since the Taliban seized power in neighbouring Afghanistan – with resultant instability in the region – the tour has been in doubt.

An ECB statement said: “We’re aware of New Zealand’s decision to pull out of the Pakistan tour. We are liaising with our security team on the ground in Pakistan to understand the situation. The ECB Board will decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our tour should proceed.”

Several of Pakistan’s top players tweeted their anger and upset.

Captain and star batsman Babar Azam wrote: “Extremely disappointed on the abrupt postponement of the series, which could have brought the smiles back for millions of Pakistan Cricket Fans.

“I’ve full trust in the capabilities and credibility of our security agencies. They are our pride and always will be! Pakistan Zindabad!”

And T20 vice-captain Shadab Khan added: This is heartbreaking. Pakistanis love cricket so much, we have worked really hard to bring cricket back here. PSL & other teams visiting Pakistan is evidence of our hospitality & security arrangements. We will continue our efforts. #PakistanZindabad”

The PCB statement said: “Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan government made fool-proof security arrangements for all visiting teams. We have assured New Zealand Cricket of the same.

“The Pakistan Prime Minister spoke personally to the Prime Minister of New Zealand and informed her that we have one of the best intelligence systems in the world and that no security threat of any kind exists for the visiting team.

“The security officials with the New Zealand team have been satisfied with security arrangements made by the Pakistan government throughout their stay here.

“PCB is willing to continue the scheduled matches. However, cricket lovers in Pakistan and around the world will be disappointed by this last-minute withdrawal.”

But Kiwi Premier Adhern insisted: “When I spoke with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I conveyed our thanks for taking care of the New Zealand cricket team.

“I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision that’s been made. Player safety has to be paramount.”

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