Pakistan To Host Longest Two-Team Series in a Decade
Pakistan is set to play host to the longest bilateral series played on their home soil in a decade when Sri Lanka heads there for three ODIs and three T20Is, with the first series set to kick off on the 27th of September. The ODIs, all of which will be played at the National Stadium in Karachi, will be the first international 50-over matches to be played in the country since Zimbabwe toured there in 2015. Of course, for virtually all of the past decade - with the exception of the Zimbabwe tour in 2015 - Pakistan home games have been played at a neutral venue, typically in the United Arab Emirates, due to security concerns for visiting teams in Pakistan.
However, Sri Lanka had been committed to playing these series' there having conducted its own security assessments, though there were a number of prominent players who refused to travel to Pakistan. The ten total players who refused included the likes of Angelo Mathews, Kusal Perera, Niroshan Dickwella, Thisara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne - a list which includes many of Sri Lanka's best players. A Test series between the two sides is also scheduled for December, and Pakistan are believed to be hoping it will be played in their home country, but with so many high quality players withdrawing from the limited-overs series set to be played there it seems unlikely that Sri Lanka would agree to playing five-day cricket there, assuming the same players will also be loathe to visit the country in a few months time.
And last week, even the upcoming limited-overs series were thrown into doubt when a Sri Lanka's government received a "possible terrorist threat on the Sri Lanka team". This initiated a reassessment of security in the country by the Sri Lankan Cricket Board, who stated "Sri Lanka cricket today sought the assistance of the Sri Lankan government to conduct a 'reassessment' of the security situation in Pakistan ahead of the national team's planned tour to Pakistan". After this was conducted, however, it was determined that "no information has been received by the High Commission of Sri Lanka in Pakistan, indicating a threat to the Sri Lanka national team or to the said tour". The Pakistan government have also had significant input, saying that security for the Sri Lankan team will be akin to that given to a Head of State.
As a result, Sri Lanka have agreed to go ahead with the Tour as planned. It will commence with three ODIs played in Karachi on the 27th of September, 29th of September and 2nd of October, before three T20Is are played at Gadafi Stadium in Lahore on the 5th, 7th and 9th of October. The two series will mark an historic moment for cricket in Pakistan, which has been starved of international cricket played locally for over a decade.
Pakistan will head into the two series' as favourites, with Sri Lanka wallowing in eighth place in the world rankings in both the shorter formats of the game. Add to that the significant personnel which they will head to Pakistan without as a result of security concerns on the part of those players, and the team that Sri Lanka will be fielding will likely be of significantly less quality than that which Pakistan will play with. Pakistan is ranked sixth in the world in ODIs, while in T20Is - on which they have focused a large amount of energy in recent years - they are a force to be reckoned with, sitting comfortably atop the world rankings. As a result, they will head into those three matches with a huge talent advantage over their opponent, and will be expected to put an exclamation mark on the return of international cricket to Pakistan with a big series win.