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PCB hopeful of international cricket's return

Sanath Jayasuriya arrives at the National Stadium in Karachi AFP

The Pakistan board is in negotiations with its Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe counterparts to try and bring international cricket back to the country soon, according Zaka Ashraf, the PCB chairman. Ashraf said the staging of two unofficial Twenty20 matches, between an International XI led by Sanath Jayasuriya and a Pakistan All Stars team, in Karachi was a boost and he expected to have "good news" early next year.

"I think these matches, despite being private, are a good step," Ashraf said. "The PCB supported and encouraged these matches and they generated a lot of enthusiasm from the fans, which is a good sign."

The unofficial games at the National Stadium were well attended by fans, who have not been able to watch international cricketers in action in Pakistan since the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in March 2009. The PCB disassociated itself from the games, however, providing only no-objection certificates to its contracted players to participate, while giving no assistance in terms of security and logistics. All arrangements were made by the Sindh sports minister Dr Mohammad Ali Shah and the Karachi government.

Ashraf was Karachi on Sunday, as the Pakistan All Stars won the second match, and he hoped the games would be a start of more visits by foreign teams. "When you talk of international cricket, we are in negotiations with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe cricket boards and we will give you a good news as early as next year," he said. "We are talking to two other boards as well but I am not going to reveal names. We have given them security plans and I am sure the day is not far when we have big time cricket in Karachi, Lahore and other cities."

Pakistan's next international series is a tour to India in December and to facilitate those limited-overs matches they have postponed a scheduled tour of Zimbabwe. Pakistan were due to play two Tests, three ODIs and two Twenty20 matches in Zimbabwe this December but will visit sometime in 2013 instead. It will be Pakistan's first bilateral series against India since the attacks on Mumbai in November 2008.