The Pakistan Cricket Board has invited Sri Lanka to play their upcoming two-match Test series in Pakistan. Pakistan are due to host Sri Lanka for two Tests later this year, and by default, the matches were scheduled in the UAE, where Pakistan have played almost all “home” Test matches since the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009. Sri Lanka Cricket, ESPNcricinfo understands, has not dismissed the proposal out of hand, and appear to have consented to a security assessment.
This is the first Test series for both sides in the upcoming Test Championship, with the result of each Test netting points towards the rankings.
PCB confirmed the boards had engaged on the sidelines of the recently concluded ICC annual conference in London. Though both boards have been in discussion since the Asia Cup meeting in Singapore, the invitation was only formally extended last week. The series is slotted for October, and while it is still most likely to be played in the UAE, Sri Lanka will only take a decision after they send a security delegation to inspect security plans in Lahore and Karachi.
If the series is played in Pakistan, it will mark the first Test played in the country since the attack in Lahore in 2009, where gunmen ambushed the Sri Lankan team bus in a deadly terrorist strike. Eight people were killed and a few Sri Lanka players were injured. The incident effectively isolated Pakistan as a cricketing destination, with no international cricket held in the country for six years. Over the past four years, some cricket has trickled back, though the prospect of holding a Test match has always appeared very distant.
With teams refusing to tour Pakistan in the aftermath of the attack, the board was forced to adopt UAE as its home venue for international cricket, as well as for the Pakistan Super League. Besides two Tests held in England against Australia in 2010, every Pakistan home Test has been played in the UAE, invariably to nearly empty stadiums.
In 2015, Zimbabwe became the first Full Member to tour Pakistan since 2009, with a limited-overs series held in Lahore. Despite extensive security measures, a bomb blast occurred 800m away from the Gaddafi Stadium during the second ODI, killing two people. Zimbabwe stayed on and finished the series two days later, but the tour did not lead to a change in the perceptions about security in Pakistan.
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It was two years before a similarly high-profile match would occur in Pakistan. That was the Pakistan Super League final in March 2017 at the Gaddafi Stadium. This was followed by a successful tour of the World XI for three T20Is in September, which saw a number of high-profile cricketers turn up. The World XI side was coached by Andy Flower and included five players from South Africa – including Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla – three from Australia, two from West Indies and one player each from England, Bangladesh, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. The matches received official T20I status from the ICC, who also hired independent experts to oversee security arrangements. Players were offered USD100,000 to play the series, which spanned five days.
Sri Lanka’s T20I squad then toured Pakistan for one match in 2017, though several regular players stayed away. Sri Lanka’s then T20I captain, Upul Tharanga, pulled out, along with Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Suranga Lakmal and Akila Dananjaya. The team was captained by Thisara Perera while SLC president Thilanga Sumathipala and sports minister Dayasiri Jayasekara accompanied the side to Lahore. The brief tour became a major stepping stone and paved the way for PCB to convince teams to play more international cricket in Pakistan.