Pakistan-Australia six-match T20 series approved
The ICC has approved a six-match Twenty20 series between Pakistan and Australia, which, if it goes ahead will be the longest bilateral T20 series ever staged by international sides. The decision has improved chances of the series being staged, most likely in the period between August 22 and September 10.
The PCB had deployed a four-man team, including officials from its finance and legal departments, to examine the possibility of staging a series in the UAE. It was originally keen to lock in a series of three T20s and three ODIs in August, but the extreme heat at that time of year raised serious concerns from Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers' Association.
The ICC has a rule limiting the number of matches in a bilateral T20 series to three, but countries can ask for special dispensation to hold a longer series in exceptional circumstances. The PCB's struggle to find a suitable venue for an ODI series in August prompted the proposal for a six-match T20 series.
"The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) requested support for the flexibility to stage a six-match Twenty20 International series against Australia potentially in the United Arab Emirates in August," the ICC said in a statement. "This request required a special dispensation from the CEC and then the ICC Board as the current regulation permits only three T20I in a series.
"Because of the extreme daytime heat in the UAE at that time of the year, the CEC raised no objections to the principle of a six-match T20I series replacing the scheduled series of three ODIs and three T20Is should the PCB elect to make that switch."
A PCB official told ESPNcricinfo: "The ICC's approval has made things easier for us. There were many issues apart from the weather but now we can move in one direction and will announce our decision shortly."
A Cricket Australia spokesman said on Monday afternoon CA was still waiting for further details of the series from the PCB. Paul Marsh, the chief executive of the Australian Cricketers' Association, said the ICC's decision was sensible given the extreme heat that players would be forced to play in if 50-over games were scheduled, while T20s could start in relatively cooler conditions later at night.
"It's a good commonsense decision given the circumstances," Marsh told ESPNcricinfo. "It's not a perfect situation playing in the UAE at that time of year but we understand the limitations of not being able to play in Pakistan, so it's a good compromise given the circumstances."
A number of three-match T20 series have been held between international sides in the past, but never have four or more games been approved by the ICC.
The six games will provide an excellent opportunity for both sides to finalise their preparations for the ICC World T20, which takes place in Sri Lanka in September.
(Additional reporting by Umar Farooq in Lahore)
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here