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Test cricket set for return to Pakistan

Mohammad Abbas of Pakistan celebrates the wicket of South Africa's Dean Elgar during January's Test match at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg (by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Test cricket will return to Pakistan for the first time in over a decade after Sri Lanka today (Thursday) committed to playing their forthcoming World Test Championship matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi.

Today’s news follows on from the March 2009 attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus that effectively ended international cricket in Pakistan. The first Test between Pakistan and Sri Lanka will be played at the Pindi Cricket Stadium from December 11-15, while the second Test will be held at the National Stadium from December 19-23.

Originally, Sri Lanka was scheduled to play Tests in October and then return in December for limited overs cricket, but the matches were swapped to provide the tourists with the opportunity to assess the situation before deciding on the Test venues.

The 2009 terrorist attacks in Lahore saw Sri Lanka’s team bus ambushed by gunmen, resulting in injuries to several players. From that point, Pakistan has played the majority of its ‘home’ games in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), although increasing number of internationals and matches in its Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise competition have been played on home soil in recent years.

Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan in September, which comprised three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 matches, saw 10 senior players opt out citing security concerns. However, the tour was said to have been a success leading to Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) committing to the Test series.

Zakir Khan, the Pakistan Cricket Board’s director of international cricket, said: “This is fabulous news for Pakistan cricket and its reputation of being as safe and secure as any other country in the world.

“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 the 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.”

SLC chief executive Ashley de Silva added: “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.

“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.”