England are waiting to hear whether their historic Test series against Pakistan can start as scheduled on Thursday.
The first match of the three Test series in Rawalpindi might be delayed one day after half of the tour was struck down with illness.
The Test series is England’s first in Pakistan in 17 years – they halted their tours of the country following a gun attack on the Sri Lanka team in 2009.
A decision on matchday one play is expected early Thursday morning.
The match is set to start at 05:00 GMT, with a call indicating whether or not day one will go ahead two hours before that.
Talks between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have taken place after around 14 players and tour staff were stricken with a virus infection.
The options for the first Test are to continue as scheduled, delay a day and continue as a five-day match, or delay a day and play a four-day Test.
If the first test is delayed and remains for five days, that would leave only two days free before the start of the second test in Multan, which is due to start on December 9.
Matchday 1 would only be postponed if it was deemed that England were unable to field a competitive team, as would have been the case if the game were to start on Wednesday.
Last minute hitch to historic tour
England’s last Test series in Pakistan was a 2-0 defeat in 2005. They have only ever won two Tests here, although 18 of the 24 games between the two teams in this country have ended in draws. draw matches.
Back when England didn’t tour, Pakistan hosted them twice in the UAE, winning both series.
In the aftermath of the attack on the Sri Lankan team, Pakistan went six years without playing any kind of international cricket on their home soil.
Zimbabwe were the first team to return for a run of clean balls in 2015, with Sri Lanka playing the first Test in Pakistan in 2019.
As a host of England players took part in the Pakistan Super League, the way was open for the England tour, but a limited run was canceled in 2021 with a month’s notice after the New Zealand side received a “specific and credible threat”. ” in Pakistan.
England eventually returned to play a T20 series in September and October this year, winning 4-3.
Both then and now they enjoyed “presidential” level security, that is, an armed convoy on closed roads when traveling.
The series is set against the backdrop of massive floods that have devastated huge parts of Pakistan and England captain Ben Stokes has pledged his match fees from the tour to the flood appeal charity.
“Coming here is a monumental moment for English cricket and for Pakistan as a nation,” said Stokes, before becoming one of the players stricken with illness.
“There are things that happen in life that are bigger than sport and I felt compelled to give something that is bigger than cricket.”
A number of English fans and tour groups made the trip to Pakistan. It is believed that around 60% of tickets for the 15,000 capacity Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium were sold out before the first and second days. Larger crowds are expected this weekend.
The game is a quick reunion of the two sides that contested the T20 World Cup final earlier this month, with England winning in Melbourne.
Pakistan are eyeing a place in the World Test Championship final at The Oval next summer, currently fifth in the table. England, seventh, is out of the running.
“We are delighted with this prospect of playing in the final,” said Pakistani captain Babar Azam. “It’s an important series for that and we have a golden chance to achieve that.”
For England, this is the first overseas tour under captain Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum. It will provide a stark examination of a swashbuckling style that has won six out of seven Tests this summer.
“The most important thing to remember is to go out there and show the intention that we’ve done this summer,” Stokes said.
“We don’t feel like we want to be held back by the narrative of how Test cricket should be played. We are now in an era with English cricket, with myself and Brendon leading cricket to the ball red on how we want to go out and play.”
England named their XI on Tuesday, Lancashire all-rounder Liam Livingstone made his Test debut and fly-half Ben Duckett was recalled for his first Test in six years.