Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo, Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor
Venues in Ireland and Scotland are in the running to host Pakistan's international matches against Australia next year, as the expense of hosting a series in England becomes clearer to the Pakistan board.
Discussions between the ECB, Cricket Australia and the PCB are already underway for Pakistan to 'host' Australia for two Tests and two T20Is in England next summer. But the venues have yet to be finalised and the prohibitive costs of organising a Test series in England for a financially-struggling PCB means other options are being looked at.
"There are proposals from Scotland and Ireland and we are seriously looking at them," a PCB official told Cricinfo. "They are cheaper than the options in England, which are quite high, in terms of accommodation and travel. We were scheduled to play a match in Glasgow against India which was eventually washed out, so we will look at it."
Cricket Australia would be comfortable if the engagements were held in the United Kingdom. "It's their [Pakistan's] series, so it's up to them to work out the venue," a Cricket Australia spokesman said.
Both Warren Deutrom, the chief executive of Cricket Ireland, and his Scotland counterpart, Roddy Smith, confirmed an interest in hosting matches, with Deutrom even proposing Stormont in Belfast as a possible venue for a Test match. Both boards, however, said they had not received any feedback from the PCB since holding preliminary discussions earlier this year.
"Discussions haven't really progressed that much further in the last few weeks," Deutrom told Cricinfo. "Our proposal was simply outlining some headline costs for accommodation and transportation, and we forwarded that information to the PCB. Thus far we haven't had a response, so I'm guessing they are still considering all the options.
"We clearly wanted to throw our hat into the ring for any match, whether it was a Twenty20, ODI, or a Test match, because it's an excellent opportunity to host Pakistan, and potentially to play against them as well. We are already hosting Australia next year in an ODI, and if Pakistan are over here as well it would be unseemly not to suggest we have the opportunity to play them too."
Ireland are currently on a high after topping the table at the ICC World Cup Qualifiers in South Africa, and Deutrom believes that the challenge of hosting a Test match would not be out of the question. "We hosted India and South Africa at Stormont in 2007, and played five ODIs in nine days," he said. "Obviously they were played on different pitches, but if Ireland's facilities are good enough to host four-day Intercontinental Cup matches, we could also host a five-day Test match."
Cricket Scotland have rather more limited ambitions, but nevertheless remain interested in bringing Pakistan and Australia north of the border for one-day contests. "In all honesty I think they will play in England as it makes more economic sense to play in big stadia," Smith told Cricinfo. "But we've been consistent all the way through that they we'd love to play them, and also we could be used as a venue.
"It all depends on the economics - we can't provide a 15-20,000-seater stadium, our grounds are nearer 4000-5000," said Smith. "We have a large Scottish Asian population but not the numbers they have in England. But the ball is in the PCB's court, so we'll wait for firm discussions and proposals on both sides."
The PCB, for their part, seem unconcerned about the limited capacity of Scotland and Ireland's grounds, even though some English counties, most notably Yorkshire, believe they could attract full houses if they were to stage Pakistan international fixtures.
"Though there are no stadiums as such, they have grounds there," said the PCB official. "Temporary erections can be put up there like they used to do at the ground in Toronto where the Sahara Cup used to be held."
An ECB spokesman confirmed that England's stance had not changed since last week, when the chief executive David Collier welcomed the prospect of offering Pakistan a temporary home in the country.