Seven matches in 13 days - why Pakistan and England are playing the longest-ever T20I series

Covid-19 and last year's cancelled tour contributed to this lengthy encounter

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
"How many games are we playing?"  •  Getty Images

"How many games are we playing?"  •  Getty Images

England's long-awaited T20 international series in Pakistan starts at Karachi's National Stadium on Tuesday night, the first of seven (yes, seven) matches across the next 13 days.
It will be the joint-longest bilateral T20 international series of all time - men's or women's - and the longest between full-member nations: Malawi hosted Mozambique for seven men's and seven women's T20Is in November 2019, while the only previous full-member T20I series of more than five games was between India and South Africa's women in October 2019, when a sixth T20I was added after rain washed out the second and third.
According to the 2018-23 Future Tours Programme, this series was initially due to comprise five ODIs ahead of the World Cup in India in February-March 2023, but these were switched to T20Is when the Covid-19 pandemic shifted the 2020 T20 World Cup back to October-November 2022 and the 50-over World Cup back to October-November 2023.
Last year, the ECB withdrew from a proposed tour to Pakistan at short notice, citing concerns about players' mental and physical welfare despite the fact that the men's team had only been due to play two T20Is in Lahore as part of a four-day stopover on their way to the T20 World Cup.
Tom Harrison, the ECB's chief executive at the time, and Martin Darlow, the deputy chair, visited Lahore in November 2021 to meet with PCB chair Ramiz Raja and discuss the circumstances of their withdrawal, which had led Raja to suggest Pakistan had been "used and binned" by cricket's "Western Bloc".
During that trip, the boards agreed to add a further two T20Is onto the schedule for this series, which will see both teams rotate their squads to ensure that key players stay fit and fresh ahead of the T20 World Cup next month.
"Seven games will be a challenge," Jos Buttler, who will only come into contention to return from a calf injury during the Lahore leg of the tour, said. "Some of them are back-to-back as well so we'll certainly be looking to manage our squad throughout that.
"There are a few bowlers we need to look after. We need to expose them and get them match fit but we don't need to take undue risks."
Matthew Mott, England's coach, said: "Initially I thought seven games over here would be a lot but I think it's actually going to play into our favour. We can get some games in for the guys who are coming back and we'll get to see different guys under pressure in this series."
The two teams will also play an eighth game against one another shortly before the tournament, in an official ICC warm-up match at the Gabba on October 17.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98