Lahore to replace Multan as partial host for Zimbabwe tour

Logistical challenges have caused the PCB to replace Multan, which was one of the venues lined up to host Zimbabwe’s limited-overs series in Pakistan later this month, with Lahore. ESPNcricinfo understands that the PCB and the city government in Multan had a disagreement over the financial outlay, with the PCB deciding it would cost less for Lahore to host the leg of the tour that had initially been planned for Multan.

The tour, comprising three ODIs and as many T20Is, remains as scheduled with the exception of the venue switch. It will begin when a 32-man Zimbabwe squad arrives in Lahore on October 20. Multan was scheduled to host the ODIs on October 30, November 1 and November 3, followed by three T20Is in Rawalpindi on November 7, 8 and 10. The dates of the matches are most likely to remain the same, but it is not yet clear which venue hosts which format.

The change of venue means a five-member Zimbabwe delegation will arrive in Pakistan tomorrow to assess arrangements for the bio-secure bubble. The delegation will begin its reconnaissance in Lahore and will travel to Rawalpindi on Monday before flying back to Harare on October 14.

This tour is the second by Zimbabwe to Pakistan in the last five years. In 2015, they became the first Full Member nation to visit Pakistan since the Lahore terror attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in March 2009. Since then, Pakistan has played host to an increasing number of high-profile matches, beginning with the PSL final in Lahore in 2017. An ICC-sanctioned World XI arrived to play three T20Is later that year, and the entirety of the PSL took place in Pakistan this year. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh came to Pakistan to play international cricket as recently as February 2020, before a Test match against Bangladesh scheduled in Karachi in April was postponed indefinitely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Zimbabwe tour will make Pakistan just the second Full Member country to host international cricket at home during the pandemic. England hosted to a full summer of cricket that saw West Indies, Pakistan and Australia play bilateral series, while the IPL, currently ongoing, was moved to the UAE.

After enduring a rough period in May and June with regards to the transmission rates of Covid-19 in the country, Pakistan has been largely spared the worst of the pandemic. Even so, no crowds will be permitted for the series against Zimbabwe, or indeed the three remaining knockout fixtures of the Pakistan Super League, scheduled to be played in Lahore next month. The PCB accrued some experience of the requisite Covid-19 procedures when Pakistan toured England, and has created a bio secure environment which is currently in force for the ongoing domestic season.

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