England call off Pakistan tour after New Zealand security scare

Members of the Police Elite Force walk in an enclosure at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium after the New Zealand cricket team pulled out of a Pakistan cricket tour over security concerns, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Waseem Khan
England have withdrawn their men's and women's teams from next month's tour of Pakistan, the country's cricket board (ECB) said on Monday, three days after New Zealand abandoned their tour of the country amid security concerns.

The England teams were each scheduled to play two Twenty20 international matches on Oct. 13 and 14 in Rawalpindi, with the women's side due to stay on for a three-match one-day international series from Oct 17-21.

"The ECB Board convened this weekend to discuss these extra England Women's and Men's games in Pakistan and we can confirm that the Board has reluctantly decided to withdraw both teams from the October trip," the ECB said in a statement.

"The mental and physical well-being of our players and support staff remains our highest priority and this is even more critical given the times we are currently living in.

"We know there are increasing concerns about travelling to the region and believe that going ahead will add further pressure to a playing group who have already coped with a long period of operating in restricted COVID environments."

The ECB added that the men's team touring under such conditions would not be ideal preparation for the Twenty20 World Cup next month.

"We understand that this decision will be a significant disappointment to the PCB, who have worked tirelessly to host the return of international cricket in their country," it added.

"We are sincerely sorry for the impact this will have on cricket in Pakistan and emphasise an ongoing commitment to our main touring plans there for 2022."

New Zealand abruptly abandoned their tour of Pakistan on Friday citing a security alert, in a massive blow to the South Asian country's hopes of staging regular international cricket.

The tour was due to get underway with the first of three one-dayers in Rawalpindi on Friday but the New Zealand team did not travel to the stadium.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern backed New Zealand Cricket's decision to end the tour.

International teams have largely refused to tour Pakistan since an attack by Islamist militants on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 that killed six policemen and two civilians.

There are fears that New Zealand's decision to go home will keep them away and Australia, who are scheduled to visit in February-March next year, also appear wary.

A Cricket Australia spokesperson said the organisation was monitoring the situation and would "talk with the relevant authorities once more information becomes known".