Australia, Pakistan come in from the cold for new indoor series
International cricket will again move indoors when Pakistan visits Australia for a series of three limited-overs matches in June, it was announced in Melbourne today.
In accepting an invitation to play two matches against the host nation at Colonial Stadium, Pakistan will become the third country to compete in one-day international games in an enclosed arena.
Pakistan's abbreviated tour, which will be conducted in the depths of Australia's winter, will also feature a third one-day international - played outdoors - at the 'Gabba ground in Brisbane.
"One of the difficulties in scheduling the summer season is trying to provide cricket followers with enough opportunities to see the Australian team play live," said Australian Cricket Board Chief Executive Officer, James Sutherland, in unveiling a series that will become known as Super Challenge II.
"This series allows us to give more people the chance to see their team play and ensures that the team is able to continue its build-up for the 2003 World Cup.
"Colonial Stadium is a proven venue for international cricket, and the dry climate of Queensland in June will allow us to showcase the game at the 'Gabba," he said.
The only one-day internationals previously played indoors were also staged in Melbourne, when Australia hosted South Africa in a series of three matches at Colonial Stadium in August 2000.
That series was acclaimed as an outstanding success by players, administrators and spectators. Close to 100,000 fans flocked to the three games, and officials from both countries expressed optimism that they would act as a forerunner in paving the way for more international cricket to be played outside of its traditional base in the summer months.
Australia was poised to further explore the concept last year when India accepted an invitation to compete in another stand-alone series in September. But an increasingly congested international schedule ultimately forced the cancellation of those matches and ensures that Pakistan's arrival in Australia will now provide the country with its first taste of winter cricket in two years.
In being slotted into the international calendar between the three-cornered Sharjah Cup competition in April and the ICC Champions Trophy tournament in September, the series will also provide further important match practice for Pakistan in the lead-up to the 2003 World Cup.
"We have the Sharjah Cup against tough opposition in Sri Lanka and New Zealand this month, which should see us ideally placed for the three matches against Australia in June," said Pakistan Cricket Board Director, Brigadier Munawar Ahmed Rana.
"Taking on Australia is not only important to our preparation for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, but it is also a great challenge, as Australia has defeated our team in some important fixtures in recent times."
The Melbourne fixtures in this year's series will be contested at Colonial on Wednesday 12 June and Saturday 15 June, while the Brisbane match will be staged at the 'Gabba on Wednesday 19 June.
Both grounds are extensively used in hosting Australian Rules Football matches during the winter months, meaning that intensive preparation of pitches will be undertaken in the days immediately leading up to each of the three games.
A specially-tailored 'drop-in' pitch will be created off-site for the two games at Colonial, while groundstaff at the 'Gabba will use the advantage of a slightly longer break between football commitments to prepare a strip in the centre of their existing block of wickets.