England’s T20 tour of Pakistan next month in doubt after New Zealand abandoned their white ball series there over security concerns… so, will the Ashes be canned next?
- New Zealand abandoned their white ball tour of Pakistan on security grounds
- Decision came just hours before the first one-day game in Rawalpindi
- It has thrown England’s visit to Pakistan next month for two T20s into doubt
- There is also concern that The Ashes could be canned due to Covid measures
England’s historic trip to Pakistan could be cancelled as early as Saturday after New Zealand responded to a high-level security threat aimed at their players by calling off their tour on the morning of the first ODI in Rawalpindi.
Meanwhile, in a further blow to England’s winter schedule, the Ashes could be postponed if Cricket Australia refuse to meet the ECB’s request to ease quarantine conditions for the players’ families.
Only once ECB bosses are satisfied that the mental health and wellbeing of the players and their families is being factored into the touring arrangements will they present plans to Test captain Joe Root and his squad.
New Zealand’s white ball tour of Pakistan has been abandoned following a security alert
England’s scheduled visit to Pakistan for two T20 matches next month is now in doubt
The first one day international between New Zealand and Pakistan was called off on Friday
As one source put it: ‘We’re not just forging ahead regardless.’
On another chaotic day for the global game, Sportsmail understands the New Zealanders’ decision to leave Pakistan followed information from Five Eyes, the intelligence operation of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the USA.
With the New Zealand team the target of the threat, it is inconceivable the ECB board, who meet on Saturday, will allow their men’s and women’s teams to fly to Rawalpindi next month.
Eoin Morgan’s and Heather Knight’s sides were due to play a pair of double-headers on October 13 and 14, with the women staying on for three ODIs. England’s men have not visited Pakistan since 2005.
There are now concerns over the status of the Ashes due to England player welfare overseas
Soldiers stand guard outside the Pindi Cricket Stadium in Rawalpindi amid security concerns
New Zealand will now make plans to leave Pakistan following the cancellation of their tour
The ECB are still indebted to Pakistan for visiting the UK in 2020 for a Test series during the height of the pandemic, as well as returning this summer for six white-ball matches.
But the security advice to the New Zealanders changed so dramatically on Friday morning that prime minister Jacinda Ardern became involved.
‘I know how disappointing it will be for everyone that the game hasn’t gone ahead, but we totally support the decision,’ she said. ‘Player safety has to be paramount.’
The New Zealanders’ decision to fly home before the start of a tour made up of three ODIs in Rawalpindi and five T20s in Lahore was met with dismay in Pakistan, where regular international cricket only returned in late 2019 — a decade after terrorists in Lahore attacked buses carrying the Sri Lankan team and match officials.
The Pakistan Cricket Board said stringent security measures were in place for the tour
Stumps are removed from the wicket at the Pindi Cricket Stadium after the abandonment
Pakistan Cricket Board chairman and former international batsman Ramiz Raja went on social media to express his frustration.
‘Feel so sorry for the fans and our players,’ he tweeted. ‘Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it’s not shared!! Which world is NZ living in?? NZ will hear us at ICC.’
The ECB’s next decision concerns the trip to Australia ahead of the first Test in Brisbane on December 8. They and Cricket Australia are negotiating a set of quarantine conditions, with the ECB adamant that mental health and wellbeing are non-negotiable.
Both sides want the Ashes to take place, and the ECB are hopeful they can persuade most of their top players to make the trip. But the situation is complicated by the Australian board needing the approval of their own government before granting the ECB any leeway on quarantine.