LAHORE: Pakistan are set to host a Test series for the first time in ten years, against Sri Lanka next month. The two-match series will be played in Rawalpindi and Karachi, on December 11 and 19 respectively.
The Test series was originally scheduled to be played in October – with the limited-over series initially slated for December – and was reportedly supposed to be played at a neutral venue as Sri Lankan players had refused to tour Pakistan. But PCB requested Sri Lanka to play the entire bilateral series in Pakistan, assuring the highest level of security. The limited-overs series was then played first as a test for security measures taken by the hosts. Following the success of the tour, a convinced Sri Lanka agreed to play in Pakistan again.
“We are pleased to confirm our return visit to Pakistan as, based on our earlier visit, we are comfortable and convinced conditions are suitable and conducive for Test cricket,” SLC chief executive Ashley de Silva said in a statement. “We also believe all cricket playing countries should host international cricket at home and in this relation we are happy to play our part in complete resumption of international cricket in Pakistan, which not only has a proud history but has been one of our biggest supporters in our early days as a cricket nation.
Top Sri Lankan players had pulled out of the Pakistan trip in September, forcing SLC to send a second-string team to play the limited-overs series in Lahore and Karachi. With the visitors ending the tour on a high, winning the T20I series 3-0, Sri Lanka coach Rumesh Ratnayake signed off with lavish praise on Pakistan, calling the tour a success both on and off the field, adding he was confident that Sri Lanka soon wouldn’t be the only ones to have visited Pakistan.
“We drew our opening World Test Championship series against New Zealand, and I anticipate, like in the past, these two Tests will be exciting and competitive, and the fans will thoroughly enjoy the quality of cricket that will be on display.”
Lahore, which hosted all three matches of the T20I series, missed out on hosting one of the Tests due to a forecast of foggy weather on the given dates. The Rawalpindi cricket stadium, which will host its first Test in 15 years, is understood to be extensively renovated.
“This is fabulous news for Pakistan and its reputation of being as safe and secure as any other country in the world,” said Zakir Khan, PCB director of international cricket. “We are thankful to Sri Lanka Cricket for agreeing to send their team for the longer version of the game, which will contribute significantly in the PCB’s efforts and drive for regular resumption of international cricket, and help in its endeavours of attracting new audiences and younger generation.
“Now that the itinerary has been confirmed, we will shift our focus on series preparations to ensure we deliver arrangements as per our very high standards. This series is part of our cricket celebrations and we will leave no stone unturned in putting up a show which is a memorable one for the players, officials, fans and media.”
Sri Lanka were also the last team to play Tests there; it was the ambush by terrorists on their team bus in Lahore in March 2009 that effectively ended international cricket in Pakistan. Several members of that team were injured in the attack, with Thilan Samaraweera the most seriously hurt among them, taking a bullet to the thigh.
No international cricket was played in Pakistan in the first half of this decade, but cricket has gradually begun to return over the last few years.