England's cricket team flew into Pakistan early Wednesday for a 58-day tour. There were some initial anxieties regarding the tour following security troubles and the devastating South Asian earthquake.
The 14-man squad led by Michael Vaughan and the team officials were greeted by tight security of around 150 police personnel and commandos who had cordoned off the Islamabad International Airport's VIP lounge, from where the team was whisked off to a hotel in 20 minutes.Two members of the squad - allrounder Andrew Flintoff and pacer Steve Harmison - will arrive next week. They are now in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to raise quake relief funds.
Meanwhile, Ashley Giles, the England left-arm spinner, has told his team-mates they should prepare themselves for a hard-fought series in Pakistan as they look to build on their Ashes-winning exploits.
Giles, one of five survivors from England's last tour of Pakistan, said: "It will be a very tough series for us. Everyone is on a high still and very excited about what has happened in the Ashes. But this is another stepping stone to becoming the best side in the world, so we still have a lot of work to do. We have to draw strength from what we have done and learn from our experiences, but it will be a tough and very different challenge. If we go into it lightly it could easily bite us quite hard. We must be ready so we can come out on top and enjoy our Christmas."
Giles was making his name in international cricket when England last toured Pakistan five years ago, winning the three-match series 1-0 after a dramatic victory in fading light on the final day of the third Test saw them become the first visiting team to win a Test in Karachi. He said patience would be vital if this tour were to become the high spot again of a 50-Test career featuring 137 wickets at a shade under 39 apiece. "We managed in 2000 to stick at it and stay with them until the final hurdle when we won that great game in Karachi," he explained. "That was a personal highlight in my career."
Giles has usually operated as a lone spinner for England but if, as is often the case in Pakistan, the pitches are dusty and dry he could find himself being partnered by Hampshire veteran Shaun Udal or Warwickshire's Alex Loudon. The off-spinners' prospects of making what, in both cases, would be a Test debut have been increased by the withdrawal through injury of reverse-swing specialist Simon Jones, one of England's Ashes heroes. And Giles said he was looking forward to playing alongside another spinner, especially Udal who appeared in the last of his 10 one-day international caps a decade ago.
"I always enjoy bowling with another spinner. You pick up a bit of rhythm and can create more pressure and get on top of batsmen together. I hope we will play two spinners. I can learn from 'Shaggy' [Udal] as much as he can learn from me, because he is a very experienced bowler. We have three spinners, and I don't think any of them will be written off. I have to do my job, because I have two guys up my back now looking to put me under pressure."