The schedule for Pakistan's second overseas tour since the Covid-19 pandemic has been finalised, with their visit to New Zealand over Christmas set to go ahead with virtually no deviation from the original FTP. The two teams will play three T20Is and two Tests from December 18 to January 7, with each international played at a different venue. In accordance with Covid-19 protocols mandated by the New Zealand government, the Pakistan squad will enter a two-week quarantine period in Lincoln once they reach New Zealand in the last week of November.
The relatively low rate of Covid-19 transmission in New Zealand means the bio-secure bubble need not be maintained following the expiry of the quarantine period. Aside from the largest city, Auckland, the entire nation is operating under what are known as Level 1 conditions, which effectively mean no restrictions on movement besides border control. At one point, the nation went over 100 days without an officially recorded positive Covid-19 case, and a second wave that saw a few hundred further cases has been all but extinguished. By contrast, when the Pakistan side toured England for three Tests and three T20Is over the summer, the bio-secure bubble was strictly maintained throughout the tour.
With no internal restrictions in the country outside of Auckland, ESPNcricinfo understands NZC are privately confident there will be crowd attendance for at least four of the five internationals on the tour. With new Covid-19 cases having trickled to a near standstill, Auckland appears on track to drop back down to Level 1 in line with the rest of the country well before the scheduled tour, meaning crowd attendance at Eden Park is still very much on the cards. That means Pakistan's tour of New Zealand could become the first international cricket played since the Covid-19 outbreak that is not played in front of empty stadiums.
While New Zealand Cricket's chief executive David White had already confirmed both Pakistan and West Indies would tour the country as previously planned, the schedule for the Pakistan series is only now out. Auckland, Hamilton and Napier will host the three T20Is to be played on December 18, 20 and 22, while Mount Maungunui hosts the Boxing Day Test. The Hagley Oval in Christchurch will be the venue for the second Test, which begins on January 3rd.
"It's always a pleasure to host the Pakistan cricket team in New Zealand and I know there will be a lot of interest in the Test and T20 series," NZC chief executive, David White, said. "Pakistan touring sides have been coming here since 1965 and many New Zealanders have grown up watching the likes of Hanif Mohammad, Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and of course, the great Imran Khan in action. I'm sure the squads coming out here this summer will be similarly steeped in talent and class and will continue the great legacy that is Pakistan cricket."
"New Zealand boast some outstanding cricket facilities with supportive and knowledgeable crowds," PCB director international cricket, Zakir Khan said. "Pakistan have always enjoyed touring New Zealand and have performed well there, and we look forward to similar performances from our side on this tour."
"New Zealand series will be our penultimate series in the ICC World Test Championship with the last series against South Africa at home following this tour. We remain optimistic and committed to finishing on a high in the Championship as it is our endeavour to become one of the top-performing Test playing nations."
A press release from the PCB revealed the Pakistan Shaheens, effectively the "A" team, would also travel to New Zealand, with details on their departure to be announced in due course.
Pakistan were last in New Zealand for a limited-overs tour in 2018, with the hosts sweeping the ODI series 5-0, while Pakistan triumphed in the T20I leg 2-1 to rise to the No. 1 ranking in that format. The last time the two sides played Test cricket in New Zealand was in 2016, with New Zealand winning both Test matches.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000