Australian cricket team has arrived in Pakistan for first tour in 24 years

Feb 27, 2022: Australia’s cricket team headed by skipper Patrick James Cummins, has arrived in Pakistan on its first tour of the country in almost a quarter of a century – and is in a protective bubble that will envelop them during their six-week stay.

The Australians will be confined to quarters for 24 hours after arrival for COVID-19 tests, before intense training ahead of the first Test starting March 4.

The last time the team was in Pakistan was back in November 1998 winning a three-Test series 1-0 and blanking the hosts in the three one-day internationals.

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This time round, the Aussies will take on their hosts in three Test matches, the same number of ODIs and one T20. The first match of the Test series will begin on March 4 in Rawalpindi. It will be followed by Tests in Karachi and Lahore before three ODIs and a single T20, all in Rawalpindi.

Senior batsman Steve Smith posted a picture on Twitter of the 35-strong Australia tour party inside their charter flight’s cabin after it touched down in the Pakistan capital, Islamabad.

Since the deadly terrorist attack on the visiting Sri Lankan team bus in 2009, Pakistan has struggled to attract visiting parties. Australia pulled out of a tour five years earlier after a suicide blast at a Lahore church.

After being forced to play their home games abroad – mostly in the UAE – Pakistan last year assured international cricket officials that a tour of both New Zealand and England was scheduled. But the Black Caps hurriedly left a few minutes before the start of their first match in September, citing security concerns, and England soon postponed touring both their men’s and women’s teams. These decisions angered Pakistan cricket officials, who felt they had done everything possible to ensure safety and security.

They say they are again leaving nothing to chance, with nearly 4,000 police and military personnel guarding the team hotel in Islamabad and the cricket stadium in the nearby garrison city of Rawalpindi.

“The squad will be given ‘head of state-level security’,” a spokesman for Pakistan’s interior ministry told the AFP news agency.

“Such arrangements are only made for high-level foreign delegations, [and] the president and prime minister of Pakistan.”

Roads will be blocked off when the Australians make the 15km (9-mile) commute, with their team bus shadowed by army helicopters.

Snipers will be positioned on buildings surrounding the stadium, while nearby shops and offices have been ordered to close on match days, the interior ministry said. Similar arrangements will be in place for matches in Karachi and Lahore.

“We’ve got to a place where everyone hopping on the plane is comfortable with where it’s all sitting,” Australian skipper Pat Cummins said ahead of the team’s departure from Sydney.

“It’s been a really thorough body of work that the security and the logistics teams have worked through.”

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