England tour of Pakistan in doubt as ECB reassesses security arrangements
Decision due in '24-48 hours' in wake of New Zealand's abandonment of ongoing series
The chances of England going ahead with their proposed tour to Pakistan in October would appear to have receded sharply, in the wake of New Zealand's decision to abandon their ongoing tour due to a security threat.
England's men and women teams are currently due to play two T20Is in Rawalpindi on October 13 and 14, with the women due to stay on for a three-match ODI series as well. But, in the wake of New Zealand's decision - minutes before the scheduled start of their first ODI in Rawalpindi - the ECB have confirmed they are reviewing their plans, with a decision expected in the next "24-48 hours".
A statement from NZC said: "Following an escalation in the New Zealand Government threat levels for Pakistan, and advice from NZC security advisors on the ground, it has been decided the BLACKCAPS will not continue with the tour."
Given that NZC and the ECB use the same security consultants - ESI Risk - to advise on such matters, it would be a major surprise if England proceeded with the tour.
"We're aware of New Zealand's decision to pull out of the Pakistan tour due to a security alert," an ECB spokesperson said. "We are liaising with our security team who are on the ground in Pakistan to fully understand the situation. The ECB Board will then decide in the next 24-48 hours whether our planned tour should proceed."
The tour would have been a significant moment for Pakistan cricket. England have not visited the country since 2005 due to security concerns, but agreed this two-match series as a sign of gratitude at Pakistan's assistance in helping them stage cricket during the English summer of 2020 when the nation was in lockdown. Pakistan's players were obliged to spend an extended period of time in a bio-bubble to ensure the ECB were able to stage the series.
It may be premature to cast doubt over the viability of England men's Test tour to Pakistan in late 2022, but the resurfacing of security issues in the region is likely to have ramifications for the staging of that series as well.
Any cancellation may also hit both teams' preparations for the T20 World Cup which follows. It could be, however, that the ECB allow their IPL players to remain at the tournament during the knock-out stages. The ECB had previously intimated that players involved in the T20 World Cup would be obliged to leave the tournament early.
It also leaves England's plans for the winter up in the air. They have already seen their tour of Bangladesh cancelled and are currently waiting for assurances from Cricket Australia before confirming their Ashes plans.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo